Images, art or documentation
Following up on my resent blogpost about photography and art, the feeling of “many people/I could have done that ” when looking at art, is not new to me. This feeling always leads to more questions. Would many people/I have done that? Is it not art just because someone else could have done it too? Could most conceptual art not technically be done by many people? What about paintings that could be replicated? When does something become art?
Doing a little research for this article, I came across a Tobias van Schneider, and his article about precisely this – but I could have done that too – feeling. He argues that questioning the validity of other people art, comes from ones own unhappiness, and therefor being jealous of someone else’s succes.
The possibility of jealousy as the underlying reason for my lack of enthusiasm for a well renowned artists work, is absolutely a point I at least have to consider. After all, as Tobias van Schneider points out, if the statement “but I could have done that too” is based on a healthy amount of self confidence, then why the need to say it out loud. This is also the reason I decided to take another look at Reineke Dijkstra’s photographs, reconsidering my initial harsh judgement.
I cannot pretend not to be just a little bit jealous of successful artists, who are able to live of of their passion, but I disagree that this explains my art critique. One problem with this line of thought, is that if I buy completely into it, any kind of critique of art made by an artist that has already received public recognition, becomes impossible. It is kind of like when people try to crush any constructive criticism by telling you to put on the yes-hat (directly translated from the danish expression: ta ja-hatten på) and stop being so negative.
Then again, while the critique it self may be well founded, the argument “I could have done that too” really has no place in a proper art critique. For my part i do believe that this argument is somehow linked to a feeling of jealousy, but mostly because I find it unfair that someone who, in my opinion, maybe isn’t even that good, has this much succes. Whether ment that way or not, the statement does imply that if something is easy to make, it can’t be art, and that has to be taken into consideration. I don’t believe that art has to be difficult to make to be good. I also prefer critique based on proper argumentation rather than personal feelings, and I promise I will try to resist saying “I could have done that too” when judging other peoples art.
Back to the initial question then; when does photography become art? This discussion has probably existed just as long as the photograph itself, and I won’t presume to hold the answer, I do however have an opinion on the matter. This brings me back to the talk I attended last year, with the photographer Krass Clement, where he talked about what it is that makes a photograph interesting, and moves it towards being art. He pointed out the poetic element, the ability of the photograph to emotionally engage the viewer and show more than meets the eye. This is very in tune with my thoughts about photography as art. It is when the photograph moves beyond the technical and the formal, when it shows me something more than just the physical image of a person or a pace, when it engages my mind and makes me see things in a different perspective.
Whether or not I my self live up to this criteria in the photographs I categorise as art, is for someone else to judge.