Day 136 — Art And Emotional Response

Another argument in regards to what might defines something as art or not is whether it creates an emotional response in its audience. We can certainly see how people can gasp in awe when they attend the theatre, or cry at a film, maybe be dazzled by a painting or fall in love with music. But does that necessarily point to the worthiness of the piece as a true work of art? Expression theory, or arousal theory, involves the claim that artistic expression is demonstrated by the audience’s response — if you respond emotionally, it works as a piece of art and if not, it fails.

However, a work of art might not be aiming to get a particular expression from its audience, or might inadvertently cause a certain feeling in response. Secondly, what if a piece does evoke a strong reaction, such as joy, but is never viewed by an audience — what then? Is it never art to begin with, or does it succeed by the effort of its creator alone, who might find joy in it? Could that make it a work of art? In addition, does it need to be a large enough (or a particular kind of) audience with a specific reaction, to legitimise certain works as art?

Further Resources:

Artistic expression and the claims of the arousal theory