We know what art is or at least we think we know. If someone asks you what is art, you probably would, most likely, say that is anything that has a visual value and has a deeper meaning. Yes, that is a valid answer but at the same time is a bit lacking because lots of things can be art and they either are not visual or don’t have a meaning at all. Then you might wonder what is art? To tell the truth it is subjective. You might have your own values that determine what is art and what isn’t. A drawing, a poem, a photo, or even an object that you have can be art. It all falls down to what you think is important enough that you want others to see.
On this post I’m gonna talk about two readings, one is Hito Steyerl’s In Defense of the Poor Image and the other is Seth Price’s Dispersion. Remember my question about art? Well, that’s what I’m gonna talk about. You know an any day you find something that you like and you want to keep something as a reminder of that thing so you take a picture. You will get your phone and within some seconds you’ll have one, ten, or maybe even more photos from that something, am I right? That for you is in a sense art. Why? Because it has a meaning to you and when you show it to someone else it illustrates what you were doing. They can guess the meaning but they are also appreciating the photo that you took. Think about it. Nowadays, any photo that you take can be uploaded into social media and therefore you are sharing it to the world. Anyone can see it and anyone can give you an opinion about it. Isn’t that just like going to a museum and hearing people talk about that one piece that caught your eye and now you are also looking at. Then your photos are art too. The problem with the internet is the once it is there, there is no way out. What is the problem with it? That one picture will forever be on the internet and as long as it is there it can go anywhere. Others can download it, they can share it, and it keeps on spreading. Steyerl talks about how images get shared around and lose their value by losing their quality and/or already being really poorly taken in the first place.
Let me give you an example. See the two photos below?
You can tell that it’s a rubik’s cube. The left one is not as clear as the right one but you can still tell what it is. So what’s the point? If photos are taken without focus and you still can “see” what it is, then there really is no point as in why we can’t just share that and say it’s art. The reason you can’t do it is not because you are not able to do it it’s more of you shouldn’t do it. Why you shouldn’t do it? Because society will not accept it. That’s it. Steyerl explains that people did happen to take photos but they weren’t always the sharpest ones. You’ll get blurry ones that still make it to be shared and that’s fine but the main reason of the picture is gone. You can’t tell truly what it is as it can’t be shown exactly. If someone that didn’t know what a rubik’s cube looks like and saw that the left photo above, they could just say it’s boxes stacked or some buttons and they could be right. There is nothing that proves it is not a bunch of boxes or buttons. But if you show them the right photo, now there is less room for guesses. It is a cube a rubik’s cube. You can’t deny it. That’s why Steyerl talks about focus on photos, they let the viewers confirm what they are looking at.
Continuing with the talk about social media and photos, all the photos that you upload get compressed. There is no way out of it(well, unless you are uploading them into some kind of archive site but that’s not social media anymore). Compression will always happen because images are huge and take a lot of space an time to load so to make it faster and easier to access they have to be compressed, in other words, made smaller. Steyerl talks about the awfulness of compression because the image loses it’s sharpness and it’s value per se but Price also talks about the availability that it provides. You wanna share something with others? You can upload it on the internet and anyone can download it. It’s that easy! The problem? To share it means it has to be small enough so it’s quick and easy therefore you lose quality and information about the image. If you want something , you have to give up something in return basically. That is why Price explains that art can get dispersed through the internet but there is a cost. Besides that most of the time, we humans prefer to get things for “free” rather than paying e.i. games, art, videos, music, etc. The harder to get the more you want it. The same applies to art. The pricier or harder to see, because of fees and tickets, the more value art has. That’s why most people think that art has to generate money in some way or another or else it is not art.
Price does explain more about the idea of how people see art as like things that need a high price in order to fit into the category of art but there are people that don’t think that art is that. Therefore, we get underground artists that make and share their creations through other means that do not require a high price to see. There is the mention of Jorge Pardo’s whole floor from the Dia being regarded as art because of how it is set up. This is an exhibition and yes, there is an admission fee. Many will think this is not art and find it crazy but to me it feels like the artist is trying to tell people that as long as you see it as art, it can be art. Pretty crazy but it’s not hard to understand. Art is subjective but most of the time there is a set objective idea for it. What I think is that giving a meaning to something seems to have more impact as art than only showcasing skill by itself.
Sharing art is hard whether you want to give it for free or not depends on the circumstances but surely enough there is a lot of people that don’t care. That is why illegal downloads and sharing happens. Maybe it’s a good or maybe it’s bad. I think it is hard to say but it depends on what you believe in.
tl;dr: Basically, art is subjective and doesn’t depend on the price. Blurry/out of focus photos are not accepted on today’s society for good pictures. Also, piracy and illegal distribution is not as black and white choices as you think.