WHY DO WE NEED THE CONCEPT OF “ART”?
The first three decades of the second half of the 20th century were a period of disputes over the possibility of defining art and the ways in which it can be done. Morris Weitz argued that creating a real definition of art is logically impossible, but at the same time he emphasized that this concept can be useful, and that attempts to define it can be helpful in terms of indicating the aspects based on which artistic objects can be approached upon their reception. George Dickie highlighted the role of institutional factors in the recognition of artifacts as works of art. There were many ideas concerning the new way of treating the term “art”, and their starting point were radical avant-garde and neo-avant-garde proposals, which also included positions that questioned the phenomenon of art and proposed going beyond the artistic epoch in the post-artistic direction. Stefan Morawski was inspired by them when formulating the concept of postart. The 1980s began with the return of art to its original territory in terms of the techniques used and the citations of past themes, but already in the second half of the decade there was an invasion of new means and media, a reinterpretation of the history of artistic creativity from feminist or post-colonial perspectives, accompanied by the use of the word “art” with-out any concern for the precision of its character. Current turns in humanities (e.g. interpretative, performative, iconic) do not focus on this task either.
Is it therefore unnecessary to define the term “art”? We use it often and in different situations, but it is perhaps an indication that it has lost its real meaning. Or maybe we really need it, but in an open and not fully defined form? Why, for example, do art historians undertake research into objects whose artistic status is uncertain? Why are exhibitions of utilitarian objects organized in art museums? Is it not the case that the word “art” is a useful substitute for other concepts that, for various reasons, we do not want to use in certain situations? What are the situations?
So why do we need the term “art” and for what purpose? We encourage you to reflect on this issue.