Art.. and a bit of software

Art is “the documentation of a thousand interesting decisions”.

Signs of Art from Rands in Repose… you’ll have to read this (at least the beginning) to get context of what I’m talking about… or you could miss these small letters and get confused… your choice


Now I don’t agree that this is the precise definition of art (fortunately I gave up thinking there was any such thing as a precise definition of anything a while back), but I do like its approach. And I think it brings up some notions of Art that don’t come with all those dusty textbook definitions from my Art theory class. I’ve certainly heard things about capturing/substance and difficulty/size/complexity but decisions — that is a new vantage point.

I like the notion of the decision making of/on/about Artwork because if you have ever been in the process of seriously trying to create — it seems like its all you are doing. Creating a mark of such shape, texture or bracketing your shot to attempt to get the exact exposure you want or decrescendoing till the note falls from your lips or designing your software abstraction in such an elegant and comprehensive fashion (well to start at least. we all know that abstractions are leaky and spherical).

The problem with decisions is that the term feels so rigid. Even the most non-organic of us still don’t think in black and white despite the fact our minds make us think that we do. You could never take a piece of Artwork and create a flow-chart from it. If you could, well… you are super-anal or its no where near a piece of art (moving to lowercase due to laziness). The decisions you make — while very intensive — are more often subtle (sometimes unknowingly subtle) or spontaneous and intuitive. Calculated decision making certainly takes place in artwork. “I like that wash, but I need to balance it.” … “How can I support the weight of that?” …”I need to use higher-speed film/this rated flash for this light.” … But, if you are you trying to create solely formulaicly* you will have a very difficult time (psst.. your subconscious is actually smarter than you think, let it have a bit more control every once and a while).

Does this mean that software is too black and white to be artistic? No way! I’ve already talked closely to this topic a bit before when I compared software to literature (word or sxw). In fact I think software is extremely artistic. Writing software is like having to elegantly dance a story around various constraints (hardware, language, requirements, OS, dependencies…). Sometimes you have to tip-toe, sometimes leap, but it all must be smoothly interconnected and yet still be recognized as part of a whole.

Where I disagree with Rand(s?) is his critical eye of modern art. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of it either (most of the time), but it does have its place in the art world. One part of art is the progression of itself. Post Moderns built off the Moderns built off the Abstractionists built off the Cubists built off the Impressionists built off the Romantics… I really am no art buff (believe me, I just looked at Wikipedia to make sure that what I just said isn’t too glaringly wrong), but I feel that part of the point of modern art is that it is so different that you have a difficult time placing it as art. Artists need to explore, need to push the boundaries, and also need to cross the line. If there wasn’t anyone saying something isn’t art, then how can it be art?

I help rationalize this because I do not think that there is anything that completely un-artful (yes double negatives can sometimes make more sense then their counterpart). So art to me is more of a spectrum to me than a classification. And more so, things can be more artistic to some than others. This has to be true since so much of the importance is the experience you have with the work. A piece can only be boring if everyone had the same response! Then all you would have to do is read a review to tell you what that response is.

Whew.. why don’t you go forth and break some new boundies then?

* probably not a word, but I like it nonetheless

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