Fluffykins: What the fuck is this?
Lucifer: The Miss Universe Pageant, want to watch?
Fluffykins: Not really… I don’t know how I feel about this sort of thing.
Lucifer: Maybe it’s problematic, I don’t know, but it’s a guilty pleasure so hush or I’ll damn you n’ stuff.
Fluffykins: That’s not what I was getting at. Do you think it counts as art?
Lucifer: What do you mean? Certainly I think a beauty pageant can count as art, if we are speaking in terms of lower case art. At its core, a pageant is gathering of “beauty” among other things and whether or not it is judged, there is certainly lowercase art at the least to be found, do you disagree?
Fluffykins: No, but that’s the problem. Other controversies that surround a beauty pageant such as this include its effects on young women who look up to these figures as symbols of beautiful people and try to imitate them. Women performing can have a size 0 waist-line and despite whatever they have to do to keep that, there are younger viewers who see them and strive for the same size stomach. It’s no giant step to consider the eating disorders sparked from this display among the viewers, those who would do anything to participate, and the participants themselves. However now we’ve encountered the problem of distinguishing the eating disorder from the art.
Lucifer: Surely you aren’t suggesting that a person with an eating disorder qualifies as a form of art? That would be super fucked up…
Fluffykins: I don’t want to, but to play devil’s advocate for a while, there are forms of performance art that include self harm. I’m referring to lower case art here, without trying to define “Art”, allow me to reference some examples that I believe should be included as art. To start small, think of tattoo artists using a tattoo gun to sear patterns into flesh. Surely tattoos count as art and the process does involve intense pain, so we’re willing to accept some pain in our definition, but then does that mean there is a threshold of harm included in art? If so, when would it something stop being art and start being plain dangerous?
Lucifer: Well before I’ll allow your query, I’m hesitant to accept your example with harm in art. While tattoos may be widely accepted as art, I’m not so sure the process of getting a tattoo does. Tattoos themselves don’t hurt anyone, it’s the process of carving out skin that evokes pain.
Fluffykins: An interesting point, I’ll address it later, but to satisfy you now let me reference body suspension, the performance art. This art form originates from the Mandan tribe of Native Americans from what is now called North Dakota. While contemporary influences have changed it slightly, this practice still involves skewering segments of skin with large hooks in order to suspend the body in the air. Practitioners claim that it alleviates stress, but the blood dripping from the wounds lead me to believe that at least some pain is involved, no matter how stress relieving. I just finished taking a Native American Art History class which covered Navajo blankets among many other things, but it doesn’t seem like body suspension would be any different. Do you disagree that body suspension either counts as art or is not painful?
Lucifer: Without defining “Art” it’s not obvious that anything at all can be considered art, but for sake of discussion I’ll agree to both counts.
Fluffykins: Well if we allow some forms of performance art that includes self harm like body suspension, then it’s not clear when the line can be drawn from something that is just blatantly dangerous like an eating disorder and something that may be performance art that includes self harm like intense fasting for slim waist. To put my question clearly, when can we say someone is not eating as a form of performance art as opposed to someone who is not eating because they have an eating disorder?
Lucifer: It’s obvious from your question. If someone isn’t eating because they have the intention to be slim or a performance artist, then it’s art, but if there is no such intention then it is an eating disorder.
Fluffykins: You don’t mean to say that if someone doesn’t eat for a bit they may have an eating disorder? I could skip meals for a day as part of a healthy diet–
Lucifer: Do not miss the point of our discussion idiot. I simply mean that someone who undertakes severe fasting can be either a performance artist (I’m including someone who wants a slim waist for beauty’s sake in here as well) or someone with an eating disorder, distinguishable by intent.
Fluffykins: Thank you for clarifying, but nonetheless a fool’s mistake. Art cannot solely depend on intention to qualify, while artists may have purpose for producing their work, it isn’t necessary to call things art. Consider the Native American clay sculpture “Horns of Dilemma” by Peter B. Jones; its purpose according to him is to comment on the negative effects that western influences had on Native people. Take away the purpose from the consideration, assume that the piece now means nothing, would you say it no longer counts as art?
Lucifer: I’d still like to say that it’s art, but I think you’re wrong in assuming that art could have no intention. All art is made by an artist and where there is an artist, there is intention, no matter how whimsical. A person with an eating disorder is not an artist and there is no intention, therefore it can’t count as art.
Fluffykins: It seems that you’re eager to dismiss the idea, but you’re still a dumbass. It may be clear to the person with an eating disorder that he/she isn’t a performance artist making art based on your account of art, however it’s not clear to a 3rd party. Suppose Fred had an eating disorder and sought medication to help him, however because the prices for medicine are absurdly high he asked his insurance company for support. Big Bad Insurance company declined his request, so Fred took them to court, in which a lawyer is trying to prove that Fred is just a bad performance artist. Surely it sounds ridiculous to Fred, who knows he has an eating disorder, but by your account of art we can confuse the case a bit. If Fred were in a coma and couldn’t attest to his intentions or lack there of, it’s not possible to distinguish Fred 1, who wants insurance to pay for meds to abuse, from Fred 2, who wants insurance to pay for meds he needs. It’s not obvious that there is intention in this circumstance. If there is, it has the potential to be art, but if there isn’t then it must be an eating disorder by definition. However without Fred to make his case, the court is left to hear the one sided argument presented by the insurance company who cannot distinguish him from a shitty artist and thus has grounds to decline medical support. If you’re still not convinced, think of Tom, who is in the exact same position as Fred except he is a shitty performance artist who wants the insurance company to pay for pills he intends to abuse and he’s not in a coma. While it’s clear to Tom that he’s not an artist, its impossible to distinguish for anyone else if he says he is in fact an artist. Any fool can see how this is an issue when considering if something should count as art.
Lucifer: I see your point, but does art need to be perceived as art to be art? Consider a world that is entirely red, would its inhabitants need to be able to call it red for it to actually be red? It seems as though a blue dot introduced in that world would allow the people to appreciate red, but nothing would change in the color itself, the world was always red. Regardless if art is called art by the public, it should still be art no?
Fluffykins: I suppose so, but you’ve stepped away from the issue at hand. Your response to the jury is virtually non-existent, but your attempt at defining uppercase “Art” is desperate. The problem with this account is the ontological commitment to “Art”. While it seems that it’s appreciation is irrelevant to its necessary definition, you’ve offered nothing to postulate why “Art” should exist at all. Not that you are to blame, but “Art” poses a heavy burden to one who would desire to define and accept it.
Lucifer: Now aren’t you the one who sounds feeble? Just because it’s weighty doesn’t mean it wouldn’t exist, it’s just a pain in the ass to define. Because I’m infinitely evil and stubborn, shall we begin this arduous task sooner rather than later?
Fluffykins: No, you dick, I have a better solution, but I’d like a day to gather my thoughts. I’m too drunk and too tired at the moment to continue and I don’t want to do something stupid lest I be damned to your place.
Lucifer: Very well, I’ll grant you one day’s time to continue our discussion. Begone knave!
*to be continued…*