Day 131 — Art And Resemblance

As discussed on a recent episode of Talk the Talk, when debating ‘what makes a sandwich a sandwich’ — one answer when it comes to defining art is to use the idea of a family resemblance, a notion raised by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations.

We can see that there’s similarities between what is typically considered works of art — mediums such as paint, in the creation of paintings; depictions of landscapes, forms; then there’s mixed media that might cover the same kinds of depictions, and even use of paint in other settings other than canvas, like street art on buildings. There’s a resemblance in what is considered to be different dance styles, such as ballet compared to hip hop, or ballroom dance and contemporary. But is that how we should judge whether something is art or not?

One challenge to this notion of “we can tell what is art due to familial resemblance” is how there’s some things that would seem to have a relationship but are not classed as art — if you discover paint has leaked onto ruined canvases, it’s not the same as a purposely constructed piece, and so on. To identify what is art, will take more than finding similarities between items, particularly considering how trends and new technologies can also change our perceptions.

Further Resources:

Wittgenstein, Games and Art

The Language Of Art