12 December 2005

Good Art Bad Art

Good and bad are dangerous terms almost everywhere and especially in art. The first, most obvious reason is that taste changes. We get sick of the same old same old beautiful (or meaningful or moving or inspiring or whatever you want art to be) stuff and find that we need something new. This has been going on for millennia, and everything about modern life seems to support the idea that this (if not a whole lot else) will continue to be as it has been in the past.

The second reason why the terms good and bad are dangerous for art is that they set up a specific operational structure under which art must labor. If there was such a thing as "good" art it would presuppose both the existence of "bad" art and specific criteria by which that distinction had been reached ("this art is good because x, y, & z"). That set of criteria would only be useful if it applied to all art everywhere for all time. For the reason why such criteria are impossible to identify, reread the first, most obvious reason. I wish to argue here that there is no such thing as good art and bad art—there is only art and not art. Either it is or isn’t. There are no varying degrees of art-being. It’s all or nothing here, and therefore "good"” is meaningless. Think of it like this: an organism is a human being or it isn’t. There are no "kinda-sorta" humans.

Please don’t take this further than what I have just outlined. A Monet is usually a good example of Impressionism, and a Warhol is always a bad example of Neo-classicism, and so on. Specific works of art can be good or bad illustration of specific things, but that has nothing to do with being good or bad art. Also, I think it is fair for individuals to decide what for them is good or bad art, acknowledging that these assessments fail to be universally applicable.

1 comment:

Josh said...

i find that the further/farther i get from college, the easier it is for me to use the term "good art" and "bad art." even though i know intellectually there is no such thing, i've become more prone to push my tastes on the world.