I want to do a brief review of Arthur Danto’s work as it has influenced my theory that art is the craft of life. I recently watched a nicely produced, simple video of Noel Carroll talking about Danto’s work. And essentially he covered the basics. He talked about how Danto’s conception of the end of art or the historical end of art was exemplified and marked by the work Brillo Box by Andy Warhol. Exhibited in 1964, Brillo Box the artwork was visually identical to the commercial product by the same name. Danto’s assertion was that the account of Vasari that posited art as mimesis or representation had come to an end with Warhol’s Brillo Box given that it was identical to its counterpart. He thought in a sense there was nowhere else for that progression to go.
Danto described art after that time as post-historical art which was marked by a sense of pluralism. Danto did not mean to say that art would no longer be made just that it would no longer be a part of this progression that had been going on for hundreds of years. Danto, who coined the term art world that is used so prevalently today, also had a very specific formulation of what all art shared. He said that art was an embodied meaning, that all art had a meaning of some kind. Carroll states in the video how this conception of art left out versions of art such as classical, instrumental music that did not have a meaning. Carroll also stated that he developed his own conception of how all art has a purpose instead of a meaning as a way of distinguishing himself from Danto and to build on his work.
My contention is that as art passed through that ending portal, the other side dispersed itself into more than just the plurality that we find in what mostly amounts to exhibitions under the guise of the art world. There was, in addition, a grand and vast re-divestment of energies back into the everyday life of people as art. This, I contend, was foretold by the trends in art of the 20th century that started with Marcel Duchamp’s readymade and evolved over that century with movements that deemphasized an art object per se and brought art into the everydayness of life and living. John Cage, Allen Kaprow, Marina Abramovic and Rirkrit Tiravanija among many many others contributed to this migration which ultimately went from inside galleries and museums to the outside everyday lives of people.
This is what has lead me to the idea that art is the craft of life. I had a conversation with my aunt about art and at some point during that conversation she said that she thought everyone was an artist. In truly listening to her, which is key to my thought’s development, I had a conception that in so much as everyone is an artist that meant that everything that we do as well could be looked at as art. I was not fully aware at the time of Joseph Beuys but I later became acquainted with his similar message and idea of social sculpture.
My art is the craft of life theme is one that asks that we consider everyone an artist and also that every person as a work of art. By extension all of creation is a work of art. Therefore in coordination with a kind of divine intelligence or what my aunt describes as creation we come to co-create our lives and it is that co-creation that is the art of our day, I propose. Personhood become the product. We make ourselves, we character build we inspire and support others as we dive deeper and deeper into what makes us, us, on an individual level and a collective level. The two models I propose that help us to enact this theory are meditation on the individual level and conversation on the social or transpersonal level. I also propose that deeds are potentially the key artistic act left in life and that when dynamically employed as a part of a diverse and robust life we come to know ourselves, each other and all creation as a kind of artwork, a nexus of being that in its DNA is art.