esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived) —Berkeley To be is to be the value of a variable. —Quine To see something as art requires something the eyecannot descry — an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the history of art: an artworld. —Danto
Nothing.What’s it I think it’sall about? upside down. Can art be meaningless?
A Fable What’s itImagine Geo, a noted all about?philosopher who dabbles in art,unveiling his latest artwork to anappreciating crowd.The work is abstract andprompts the usual remarks abouthow dramatic the colors are, itssmart sense of space, its playfuluse of form and tone. There is,however, one hard-headed guestdoes not get it, and asks “What isit about?”
A Fable“It’s not about anything.” replies Nothing.Geo.This creates an awkward silence,into which Art, another notedphilosopher says “You mean it isabout nothing.”“No.” replies Geo, “It’s is not aboutnothing, nor about nothingness, it isjust not about anything.”“Do you mean,” ventures Art, “Thatit is not about anything inparticular, but can be about anindeﬁnite number of things?”
A Fable Really“No.” replies Geo, “I mean that thispainting is not about anything.”Not content, Art presses on “Do youmean that this painting is about notbeing about anything?”Geo shakes his head, the verypicture of an artist who ismisunderstood, and answers yetagain, “No. I simply mean that thispainting is not about anything.”
A Fable I think it’sArt is puzzled and says “It seems upside down.impossible that something can bothbe an artwork and yet not be aboutanything.”Which Geo contests by replying“Well, it is art and it isn’t aboutanything.”At which point, a the hard-headedguest points out that he thinks Geohas made a mistake and hung thepainting upside down, which Geoagrees to, promptly inverts thepiece, and they move to the diningroom for dinner.
Ron Mueck: Two Women
Language Speaker HearerRon Mueck: Two Women
Art Artist AudienceRon Mueck: Two Women
Art Artist Audience LanguageSpeaker HearerLanguage roles are frequently transitive, art roles less so.
Andy Goldsworthy from Rivers & Tides
Andy Goldsworthy from Rivers & Tides
The CardsharpsMichelangelo Caravaggio, 1594
They’re cheating at cards.
They’re doing a magic trick.
It’s light reﬂected off a two- dimensional surface.
I shall now think of pairs of predicates related to eachother as "opposites," conceding straight off the vaguenessof this demode term. Contradictory predicates are notopposites, since one of each of them must apply to everyobject in the universe, and neither of a pair of oppositesneed apply to some objects in the universe. An object mustﬁrst be of a certain kind before either of a pair of oppositesapplies to it, and then at most and at least one of theopposites must apply to it. So opposites are not contraries,for contraries may both be false of some objects in theuniverse, but opposites cannot both be false; for of someobjects, neither of a pair of opposites sensibly applies,unless the object is of the right sort. Then, if the object isof the required kind, the opposites behave ascontradictories. —Arthur Danto, The Artworld
To see something as art requires something the eye cannotdecry-an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of thehistory of art: an artworld. —Arthur Danto, The Artworld
If F and non-F are opposites,an object o must be of acertain kind K before either of these sensibly applies; but ifo is a member of K, then o either is F or non-F, to theexclusion of the other. The class of pairs of opposites thatsensibly apply to the (ô)Ko I shall designate as the class ofK-relevant predicates. And a necessary condition for anobject to be of a kind K is that at least one pair of K-relevant opposites be sensibly applicable to it. But, in fact,if an object is of kind K, at least and at most one of each K-relevant pair of opposites applies to it. —Arthur Danto, The Artworld
A BA explains his work as follows: the line through the spaceis the path of an isolated particle. The path goes fromedge to edge, to give the sense of its going beyond.
A BB explains his work as follows: a mass, pressingdownward, is met by a mass pressing upward: the lowermass reacts equally and oppositely to the upper one.
Loves Labours The Ascendency of Lost St. ErasmusThere are, of course, senseless identiﬁcations: no onecould, I think, sensibly read the middle horizontal asLoves Labours Lost or The Ascendency of St. Erasmus.
The Holy Family Flight from EgyptAre these then senseless identiﬁcations?
Mary MaryJesus JesusJoseph Joseph The The Holy Family Flight from Egypt DonkeyAre these then senseless identiﬁcations?
Loves Labours The Ascendency of Lost St. Erasmus"Our wooing doth not end like an old play;/ Jack hath not Jill…."
Jack Love’s Labour’s Lost Jill Loves Labours Lost"Our wooing doth not end like an old play;/ Jack hath not Jill…."
A BIn every case it’s light reﬂectedoff a two-dimensional surface.
A"That black line is a black line" is not a tautology.