00-01 What is art? Introduction

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What is art? Introduction

What is art? Can you answer this question? Complete the phrase "Art is ..." as you see it.

Watch the video and think about the meaning of the question. What, do you think, does the journalist mean saying the words?


How can I say something is not art?

Art is difficult to define. In Britannica we can find the following definition:

"Art, also called (to distinguish it from other art forms) visual art, a visual object or experience consciously created through an expression of skill or imagination. The term art encompasses diverse media such as paintingsculptureprintmakingdrawingdecorative artsphotography, and installation".

In this module we will watch several videos about art and its different interpretations. Think what ideas are expressed in each video.

  1. Watch the video about the art of Scandinavia. How, according to the video, is art connected with history and nature?

2.The next video is about Dan Flavin's installations and their interpretations.

Dan Flavin is an American artist, who was one of the leading exponents of Minimalist art and importantly influenced the direction of international contemporary art (read more here).

What is your attitude to such forms of art?

In 1963, artist Dan Flavin began creating sculptures using nothing but that ubiquitous modern lighting unit, the fluorescent tube. As a gallery for his work, Flavin bought this former Baptist Church in the town of Bridgehampton, Long Island. Flavin's astonishing luminous art is perfectly minimal, in one sense.
He's taken an element of modern life, common to supermarkets, offices, even seedy motels, and emptied it of meaning, used it to create a series of implacable geometric forms.
But why put all this in a deconsecrated church, and arrange it like a series of chapels? Though Flavin denied any spiritual aspect to his work, it's surely significant that he'd studied for the priesthood before becoming an artist. Is there a nostalgia here, a yearning for divine light to pierce the godless soul of modern life? Or is he saying that the very idea of religious transcendence, is nothing more than an illusion, like a neon sign to be switched on or off? You can read it either way.

Now look at the work by the British artist and political activist Banksy and think how art can be connected with politics.

  1. Now watch the video about Banksy's art and copy out the topical vocabulary used in it.
Their lives in ruins. Thousands of families in Gaza lost their homes in last year’s brutal war with Israel.  And when the British artist Banksy made a surprise visit here a month ago, this rubble inspired his politicized art.  Children swing from Israeli watch tower and the Greek goddess weeps for her dead offspring. But now that image painted on the door has gone. Rabbea Darduna says he was tricked by a local man , who knew he needed money and pretended to act for the artist.   Really, we are depressed. It's fraud he tells me, he won't help to bring the door back. The buyer told the BBC the sale of the picture was legal. He paid nearly 200 dollars for it, but it was probably worth hundreds of thousands. The street art the Banksy left here in Gaza like this cat playing with a mangled ball of metal, is meant to highlight the destruction here. Because of the high prices these works can fetch stealth has stirred up tensions. And it’s not the first time that happened. Banksy first came to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank  ten years ago. And his satirical murals have since become a tourist attraction. There's even a shop selling special souvenirs, but some were sold for much less than their true value. This internet footage shows how two artworks were cut down and shipped overseas.  Back in Gaza, the Darduna family can't get over this cruel twist of fate.  Banksy painted on their destroyed house to show he cares about Palestinians’ plight, but now they've lost his unexpected gift, and they feel their sufferings even more acutely.

4.In the next video you will get to know about Jacob Lawrence's works of art from his Migration Series.

Jacob Lawrence is an American painter whose works portray scenes of black life and history with vivid realism. He became the first African American artist whose work was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art in 1941, thus breaking a racial barrier at the time with segregation in full force.

Lawrence made Migration Series to tell an important story that had been previously overlooked. He once said, “I do not look upon the story of the Blacks in America as a separate experience to the American culture but as a part of the American heritage and experience as a whole.”

You can learn more about the artist here.

Watch the video and think about the meaning of the last phrase: "You have cultural figures who are using the cultural stage to make really broad appeals to pay attention to issues of race... he can use culture to cast a spotlight on the issues that plagued American society in 1941 and still plague American society today."


And that movement was one of the greatest demographic events in the history of the United States and it thoroughly transformed American culture. "They can set the negro free ..." Some of the scenes in the Migration Series have great tenderness and intimacy. You see images of a woman reading a letter in bed to a young child and that's mixed with these incredibly stark forthright images about the fact of racial injustice, images of injustice done in courts, images of the capricious arrest of black men and images of lynching. "Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze ..." There were over 4000 lynchings between the beginning of the century and 1950. Billie Holiday in 1939 began singing the song "Strange fruit". You have cultural figures who are using the cultural stage to make really broad appeals to pay attention to
issues of race and Lawrence is keenly aware of them. And I think that he understands that in this moment  in time he can use culture to cast a spotlight on the issues that plagued American society in 1941 and still plague American society today.   

4.Now let us turn from the political aspects of art to more trivial things. From the next video you will learn that practically anything can become an art object, even a hairstyle :)

 Can a hairstyle define who you are from dreadlocks to tight curls. Different  hairstyles and cuts have been around for a long time. Now the Cheveux Cheris or beloved hair exhibition at Paris's Quai Branly museum brings together the history, art, fashion and philosophy of our locks. At showcases hundreds of artefacts  from jewels, wigs and hairdresses to talismans, mummies and human's scalps from every corner of the world.  

5.Art can be not just your passion, it can bring you money as well. Watch the next video and learn what we call pictures that depict cities and what expression is used when you say that your feelings, emotions, ideas are transferred into the painting.

I'm Layla Fanucci and I'm an artist and a musician. I paint cityscapes. I was a music teacher for 25 years. I wanted a big painting and I couldn't find one, so I painted one myself. I've been painting ever since. I quit teaching music and I painted for the next two years - 200 paintings. One of my paintings - "City of the World  Opus II", I sold it for 100,000. The best year was when I sold 32 paintings. I made in one year as much as I would have made in 17 years of teaching. So it turned out , that fall in your passion was a good thing. It was taking all the music that I studied, and just putting it on canvas. I have love to paint, so it is a passion and it's a joy.      

6.Watch the video about La Sagrada Familia Basilica, a brandchild of Antony Gaudi, which "spiritually touches your heart and your soul". The architect died in 1926, but the construction has been continued by many people and the completion is not expected soon. This church shows us that some artistic ideas can be too great to be realised by one person and during one century.

Learn more about the architect here.

Towering over Barcelona, a wonder of the modern world and the brainchild of the eccentric late architect Antoni Gaudi. La Sagrada Familia Basilica attracts millions of visitors each year. – “I was [um] emotionally overwhelmed when I walked in; [um] spiritually it touches your heart and your soul.” Forever a masterwork in progress it’s now in its last phase of construction. Once complete it should look something like this. Raising six immense towers it said to become Europe’s tallest religious building. The cathedral’s first stone was laid in 1882. Gaudi only lived to see a quarter of the work done. It’s hoped construction will end in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death, but the finishing touches will take architects beyond that. Cathedrals are never finished, we will still have to work on the artistic elements of Glory façade. It’s very difficult to predict, but it could be finished by 2030, 2032 or even 2035. Perhaps this long road to completion is keeping in the spirit of the visionary himself. Gaudi once famously joked that his client God was in no hurry to see it finished.

7.We will finish with an art object which is a part of an idiom. Watch the video and learn the idiom.

Further phrase "as useful as a chocolate teapot", you know, means something as basically useless. Until now that is because check it out. Here is an actual chocolate teapot. It took six weeks to come up with a pot that could withstand boiling water for two minutes, while the tea was brewing. Probably the inside went a bit gooey, but they did seem to insulate the outer side of the pot and added a little chocolaty aftertaste. Sounds delicious, frankly. 

PS: Do you normally associate art with crime? Can art be a crime? Watch the video.

A German forger, who conned the art world out of millions of dollars is holding his first exhibition since becoming a free man. Wolfgang Beltracchi forged paintings by some of the world's most famous artists, including Picasso and Max Ernst. Now, his paintings are worth millions in their own right. Frankie McCamely is being to see him in his studio in Montpellier in the south of France. - A genius and a master mind to some, to others - a criminal, who conned people out of millions. -The only thing, what was wrong is the signature, the wrong signature. Therefore, I was in prison, not for the painting, it’s the signature. -Do you regret putting somebody else's name on it? -I was sure, I regret the wrong signatures, because it was not OK - Do you think it was right for you to go to prison? - Yea, to prison, sure. - He didn't copy a painting, he found a gap in an artist's work and filled it. His wife Hellen sold them claiming she'd inherited them. And you must have been such a good actress to go out with this photos and with this paintings and convinced people that this is for real.  - I don't know, maybe it's my special talent. –They created old fake photographs to proof provenance. Here Helen posing as her grandmother the paintings behind. The artist says he did it for the thrill, not the money. -Money? I was always rich, you know, I’ve always had enough money. - Wolfgang owned houses across Europe, a vineyard  and a yacht. He was selling paintings for millions until this -titanium white. The pigment was found on this Campendonk forgery, when it was sent to the experts. What popped up with this particular painting was a pigment known as titanium white, which is very common now, but was not available on the market for artists in 1915, when the painting was supposed to come from. Police identified around 50 forged paintings, but the 64 year old says he painted hundreds. He was sent to prison for 6 years, his wife Helen for 4. And is there anything that you would do differently? - In change? I [would] never, I never work with titanium white. - Now painting under his own name, he's making millions, with half the money going to those he conned. Frankie McCamely, BBC news, France.  

Now try to summarize everything that you have learnt about art in this module and answer the question: What is art? Give a two-minute talk.

Специализируемся на развитии навыков говорения и понимания реальной речи на слух. Используем только оригинальные материалы.