Why Do We Need the Term “Art”?

Keywords: indefinability of the term “art”, “end of art” (A. Danto), art after the end of art, theorizing with uncertainty, “art” as an integrative category


The article reflects on the contemporary situation in which the term “art” is broadly used, albeit without attempting to clarify its meaning or define it. This situation concerns both the area of aesthetics, where the deliberations on the concept of art have been abandoned for several decades, as well as the statements of critics and artists.

The starting point of the reflections presented here is the situation that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. In the aesthetic thought there appeared views pointing to the indefinability of the term “art”. (e.g. the stand of Morris Weitz) and the tendencies to indicate other usages of this term, than cognitive – to consider its evaluative, persuasive, etc. character, etc. In the 1990s, Arthur C. Danto's texts were an important contribution to this issue, commenting on the subject in the context of his theory of the “end of art”. That “end” did not mean the end of artistic crea-tivity, but only a change consisting in the end of the era of art as a theoretical problem. In the 20th century, both in created works and in written texts, attempts were made to establish what “true art” is. Today, however, all meanings of the word “art” become important. Artistic life, according to Danto, is therefore more peaceful, free from “ethnic cleansing”.

How, then, do we motivate the inclusion of particular practices in the area of art? I believe that it often happens on a similar basis to playing dominoes. I illustrate this thesis with the use of the Polish example – the concept of “art with community” implemented since 2011 in the Warsaw district of Ursus. The text ends with reflections on contemporary “theorizing with uncertainty”. There is an assertion that the term “art” plays an integrating role in the face of various activities, for which otherwise it would be difficult to find an appropriate category.


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