FuturLab’s Bullet Proof Definition Of Art

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Since the dawn of time the arguments have raged – what exactly is Art? The question has become especially vexed over the last few decades as Computer Games have burst onto the scene and demanded a slice of the Art pie.

We’ve managed to nail the answer once and for all, thus ending centuries of debate, and are modestly prepared to share our findings with the world.

Definition

“Art is the profoundly satisfying experience that happens between an artefact and a person experiencing that artefact.”

– FuturLab, 2013

Clarification

  1. Note that an ‘artefact’ is defined as anything man-made, so it doesn’t just mean physical objects such as paintings or sculptures. It includes Photography, Product Design, Architecture and performance activities such as Dance.Definitions of artefact include:

    “Anything man-made, such as a spurious experimental result.”

    http://dictionary.reference.com

  2. Note also that ‘satisfying’ doesn’t necessarily mean pleasurable. It means the satisfaction of criteria defined by the individual experiencing the artefact. That criteria might be ‘shock me’, ‘provoke me’ or ‘show me expression of the artist’ as much as it might be ‘stun me with beauty.’

Art is therefore an experience that takes place inside the human mind, and is not a physical object.

Art vs Entertainment

Is a non-argument. They are one and the same, with the only perceived difference arising as a result of the relative distance between them along a scale from Shallow (a one-liner joke) to Profound (Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony).

Some of the most satisfying games, films and books slide up and down this scale to hit as many points as possible.
Some of the most effective game designers, film directors, comedians and writers create work that slides up and down this scale to hit as many points as possible.

If you consider something to be Art, then you have experienced it, and therefore it is Art for you, and perhaps you alone.

Great artists profoundly affect millions of people, but Art is found wherever you choose to find it.

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17 Comments

  • Addison
    Posted May 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm 0Likes

    Wow, very well said! I think I’ll have to refer to this now if this topic ever comes up between me and my friends. Now I can put into words why video games and other forms of interactive art are just that–art.

  • Steven Gregory
    Posted May 12, 2013 at 7:28 pm 0Likes

    James @ Futurlab – expect to be hunted down by mediocre art “teachers” across the globe…

  • Protector one
    Posted May 13, 2013 at 11:13 am 0Likes

    I like this definition, but I’m pretty sure “Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony” is a one-liner joke.

  • slapshot82
    Posted May 13, 2013 at 11:51 pm 0Likes

    Excellent piece James!

    I had not seen that video before and that just made my day. 🙂

    Cheers!

  • Mart
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:06 am 0Likes

    A very good definition, but I have an issue with the man-made stipulation in the definition of the artefact. My issue is that art can be found in naturally occurring phenomena such as the murmuration over the Somerset levels or the Northern Lights. Does the fact that they are naturally occurring disqualify them from being considered art?

    • James @ FuturLab
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:29 am 0Likes

      Yes, nature can be beautiful, which is also in the eye of beholder, but Art is (hu)man made. The word Art comes from the word artefact.

  • Myrrah
    Posted August 20, 2015 at 4:49 pm 0Likes

    Very pretentious. Also it doesn’t include photography, which is an art as well. Making the photo itself is not art perse, but what is shown in the picture is art, which doesn’t have to be man-made. This is a very flawed idea you have here.

    • James @ FuturLab
      Posted November 30, 2015 at 1:33 pm 0Likes

      It does include photography – ‘anything man made’. Photography is man made…

      It’s not flawed, it’s bullet proof =)

  • haharafafafafa
    Posted January 4, 2016 at 10:01 pm 0Likes

    “Art is the experience that happens between an artefact and a person experiencing that artefact.”
    Wouldn’t this be better?
    Would’t this definition be better anyways?
    “Art is creative expression”

    • James @ FuturLab
      Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:15 am 0Likes

      Art is not simply creative expression, no. Whatever is created needs to be experienced by someone, and it needs to move them in a profound way.

      Removing the ‘profoundly satisfying’ words dilutes the definition to include any old experience with a man made object, including getting on a bus, or sitting on a chair.

      As we said, the definition is bullet proof :p

  • Kay Joon
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:20 am 0Likes

    It’s always good when other people rock up and make your point for you. Good work James, I like it and shall refer to it henceforth.

  • Giles Field
    Posted May 5, 2016 at 5:35 pm 0Likes

    No this is not right. If art is an experience then the definition excludes artefacts like paintings and sculpture which are clearly not experiences. Sure we can have the experience of observing a painting but the observation and the artefact are separate. To confuse the experience with the artefact is an error.

    • James @ FuturLab
      Posted May 18, 2016 at 10:52 am 0Likes

      There is no error, it’s a bullet proof definition as we say =)

      The thing you’re getting stuck on is the difference between artefact and Art.

      Art comes from the word artefact, but human culture ascribes very different meanings to each, which is what you are missing.

      An audio file, software media player, hardware computer, cables and speakers are all artefacts, and sound waves are the medium that a work of musical art is carried on to our ears, but the Art is only manifested when a human ear listens and interprets the music. The listener may love or hate it, irrespective of the chain of artefacts or media that brought it to them.

      Art is therefore an experience – in the eye of the beholder as they say – not a physical object.

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