Which art form is the most ‘perfect’ or most broadly expressive?

A friend on facebook asked this question: “What do you think is the most “perfect” art form? Or what art form do you find the most broadly expressive?”

My response was: “I have no idea what “perfect” means in this context, but I am continually amazed by how expressive almost all art forms are. The thing that is so impressive is that the potential for breadth is expressed through so many pathways, until in fact life and art seem to intersect and you can’t tell where one stops and the other picks up. The magnificent thing about art is not that it gets stuck on pedestals in cloistered spaces but that it folds seamlessly into our daily lives in so many ways. They reflect upon life and are reflected in it. And when you get down to it, just where is the boundary?”

What do you think?

About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
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6 Responses to Which art form is the most ‘perfect’ or most broadly expressive?

  1. gazooza says:

    Yeah, it sounds way too New Agey for comfort, but my immediate reaction was something along the lines of what you said: not what’s made in any particular medium, but the life lived around the making.

    Of course, that’s also kind of a philosophical cop out. And… everyone knows the real answer is clay thrown into utilitarian pots.

    • The interesting yet unsurprising thing in the facebook thread was that everyone seemed to pick either their favorite art form or the one they themselves were involved in. Which probably illustrates why what seemed like a genuine question may not even be a real question but an excuse for people to proclaim their own biases.

      It sounded like it was really asking something but “perfect” means nothing in this context and “broadly expressive” is both elusive and only marginally quantifiable. “Broadly expressive” is a matter of potential, and it turns out there are few limits as to how objects can be used and interpreted. Even a stone can be expressive when its lobbed at someone or left in a Christmas stocking. You might even argue that objects themselves, no matter what, are not expressive but that it is people who find the meaning in them. Its only because objects and living bleed into one another that there is this congruence. We find meaning with and through objects. They mean things to us only because we can place them in context within our lives. The only things that fail to express meaning are the things we don’t know what to do with…..

      So you can see, it really wasn’t a very good question after all, if it actually can count as a question. Or, it was simply asking something different from what it purported. (Ludwig, help me please!)

      • Kind of like the telephone survey message I just received that asked “Do you think President Obama is doing a good job, yes or no?” How many respondents will take the time to research deeper that the surface drivel they may have heard about? At most they may have a handle on one or two main issues but have no conception of all the nuances involved or the pressures that are exerted on the job he can do. The only honest answer for most people would be “I don’t know”, otherwise it almost universally turns into whether the person is biased in favor or against The President. So, how was this in fact a real question to begin with?

      • gazooza says:

        “…may not even be a real question but an excuse for people to proclaim their own biases.”
        I think that’s it exactly. Most of us (artists) are narcissistic enough that if we thought some other medium was superior, we’d switch to it. You’d have to look long and hard to find a painter who’d say, “Yeah, sculpture is really where it’s at, but I decided to settle for 2D.” Or, naturally, a potter who doesn’t think it’s the best thing ever.

        • Except! Except that there are artists who just go through the motions and are no longer captivated by what they are doing. So I suppose that once you’ve psychologically distanced yourself from an art form you can accept that other things are even more brilliant. You can get jaded, if you are not careful in nurturing your wonder and amazement.

          Or, we acknowledge that our talent is only for this small range of expression. For instance, there is a whole lot I admire about music, but my talent was never going to lead me in that direction. Still get blown away by it, though. And I just saw a show of multi-media ‘paintings’ that were almost more 3D collage and installation than 2D paint on canvass. If I had the time and talent, THAT is what I’d like to try my hand at.

          I guess the lesson is that the more passionate we are the more blinded we are to difference. When talking to makers of things it is simply typical that they will be passionate about what they are doing. Our passion as the audience of other’s creativity gives us other things to weigh, with sometimes with equal bias…..

          But it does seem that most of us are self absorbed enough and narcissistic enough to keep our values close to home. Especially for doers. Doing is often commitment and focus. Passengers have the luxury of not committing as deeply or as singlemindely.

          (Sheeze! I sure can argue both sides of a case…..)

        • gazooza says:

          Hey, it’s your blog — go nuts! I’m always happy to be the spark plug to your idea engine, or the foil for further elaboration of a point or random tangents of pontification.

          And I agree with you — all those qualifiers or exception cases make sense, so in a broader discussion it makes sense to note them. I tend to use a term like “artists” in a really narrowed way; for example, automatically excluding the hacks, wanna-be’s, has-beens, sellouts, and going-through-the-motioners. I’m just biased and elitist that way.

          Same for “pots”. I almost always mean “good, handmade, functional pots that are worth consideration”, not “every possible ceramic vessel that could be construed as ‘pottery'”.

          Plug that into your Wittgenstein simulation and watch it explode!

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