In one of his latest blog entries the philosopher Eric Schliesser mulls over the question whether bad art is still art: ‘Finally, a small point. The reviewer writes, "Lehrer's definition also appears to commit one of the cardinal sins of any definition of art: it conflates the definition of art with the definition of good art." Well, "one man's sin is another man's goal". Or to put this slightly philosophically, let's stipulate that the telos of art-making is good art; all things with a telos can fail; but it does not follow that failure at attaining good art, is still art...it is generally (to use a technical term derived from Yiddish) tinnef.’
(Read his entry here.)
Is a failed attempt at building a house still a house?
There is a distinction between a house and art. For one, an artist could aim to provoke questions like “is this still art?” Part of the tradition of modern art consists of these provocations.
An architect can aim to provoke similar questions, but give or take a few exceptions nobody has to take shelter against rain and snow in a piece of art.
A while ago I was watching a performance by Marina Abramović in the MoMa. I overheard a man saying to his girlfriend or wife: “This isn’t art, this is fascism.”
Perhaps the man was joking, he seemed to enjoy the performance.
But Schliesser raises the possibility that certain gatekeepers should be able to keep "bad art" out of the domain of art. We should not automatically accept everything that is labeled "art" as art.
I'm doubtful of this position. Even undesirable art is art. A poem that glorifies Stalin is still a poem.
It’s even possible that we are pieces of art without knowing it.
Mr. Schliesser is a philosopher, and a gem of a human being for that matter, but to me he is also a piece of art. Whether he is a good, a mediocre or bad piece of art is not that important. I, for one, would like to buy him and put him on my desk, that’s how much I like him as a piece of art.
One of my goals in life is to set up an exhibition in an important and pleasant museum where you can meet the philosopher as a performance artist.