TOK: #12 – What is Art?

Knowledge within arts is not objective and therefore not meaningful.

Based on my interpretation, this claim is stating that only objective things are meaningful, and that subjective things are not significant because they do not provide a definite answer to anything, and is instead based off of one person’s point of view. Knowledge within the arts can include the creation of the art piece or the interpretation of the piece.

On one hand, it can be argued that knowledge within the arts is subjective and therefore not meaningful, especially if someone is looking at an artwork to obtain factual information. For example, if someone were to look at Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 with the goal of learning more about what happened during the Napoleon conquering of the Spanish during the beginning of the 19th century, then this piece may not be meaningful in providing them with factual information about the event. This is due to the fact that the painting was created by one person, thus the depiction of the event is only based off of the artists’s personal point of view. Since the artist is Spanish, the painting depicts the Napoleon in a more negative way. However, someone from France may have a completely different perspective on the event. Therefore, the artwork is not meaningful because it does not allow people to gain an accurate idea of what happened through the depiction of the artwork.

On the contrary, it can be argued that subjective works are in fact even more meaningful than objective works. Using the same example as above, one could find the subjectivity of the piece to be meaningful as it would allow them to understand how people from different backgrounds interpreted the same situation differently. Similar to history, it is valuable to know about the different interpretations of the same event as it allows people to gain a more well-rounded understanding of what happened. Even though the arts are subjective, it can also be meaningful because it can allow people to understand more about the artist’s personal thoughts. One part of the arts are about expression one’s own emotions and feelings, so it can be valuable for people to use artworks to understand how people’s surroundings can influence their thoughts. For example, in Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows, his emotions are clearly represented through the images. This piece is subjective as it only represents one person’s emotions. However, many people found this famous piece of work to be meaningful as it allowed them to understand Van Gogh’s emotions at the time more. Therefore, subjectivity can also be meaningful, depending on what the knowledge in the arts is being used for.

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