The Trouble With The Term Art Analysis

800 Words 4 Pages
In her 2006 article “The Trouble with (the Term) Art”, Carolyn Dean argues that the using the word “art” for both past visual expressions (particularly nonwestern) does not quite capture the true definition of what these pieces are. This argument is valid, to consider these works as mere entertainment erases a culture’s true history and identity. Dean has a very strong argument for the analysis and retirement of the term “art”, however the ideas surrounding the concept of “art” explain the larger issue as a whole.
Carolyn Dean argues that pinning the recent idea of “art” on nonwestern works does not inform one about the culture, but rather condenses that culture into easily defined novelties. Dean had an amazing example concerning this point,
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Dean explains this sort of pathway of visual consumption by giving the example of Masengo or “Heavy Things”. Art historian Elizabeth L. Cameron describes the Masengo of the Lega people as “objects that exist apart from mundane activities and are endowed with special powers by virtue of their use.” (Dean 2006, 26) How western viewers see visual works could have taken a great number of paths, but ultimately “art” has become the normal term to use when analyzing these visual works. Also, the idea of art being “consumed” is a newer, very western, concept. I think Dean makes a good point about the issues calling nonwestern works “art” makes it more so about the western view of art, rather than what the pieces themselves truly are and truly represent in that culture. Cultural appropriation is a common side effect of this unchecked filtering of non-European cultures into a neatly consumable piece of “art”. This is the “art by appropriation” Errington speaks of. (Dean 2006, 26) By defining a culture’s identifying works as the same as our own culture’s entertainment, the western viewers are erasing the nonwestern culture’s validity within the western …show more content…
She could be disregarding western viewers as mere consumers appropriating nonwestern cultures for the sake of entertainment. However, she does touch on the concept of “art by intention” and how nonwestern cultures have made art for entertainment. (Dean 2006, 26) Our course has explored many nonwestern cultures, and their works. Through this reading, I feel as though the course has been heavily using the word “art” without really exploring that particular pieces role on nonwestern society, rather than its decorative role in western society. Although, the course has prompted the analysis of culture and identity through the expression of various artists. Many assignments prompt the student to not think about how they see the work, but rather what the artist intended and how the artist expressed their own identity and/or

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