TOK Task #9 – What Is Art?

Knowledge within arts is not objective & therefore not meaningful.

If knowledge is subjective, it is not meaningful because there are too many approaches and thus, diverges from the general sum of what is known and understood.

In the arts, it is difficult for a consensus to be reached about what a piece is about as it holds different meaning for individuals. When something is capable of eliciting different emotions for different people, knowledge about the piece cannot be formed as the way the piece is being perceived and approached is so different – it would not be easy for everyone to reach the same understandings, particularly if emotions affect the learning of knowledge. For example, Onement VI by Barnett Newman, was a painting that had a turquoise stripe separating two dark blue rectangles. Firstly, it would be difficult for most people to understand what the piece is, which means that the thoughts produced could not be knowledge and would be potentially superficial in terms of understanding. Secondly, no knowledge that is substantial can be reached because all the knowledge is stemmed from individual emotions. Knowledge from individual emotions are merely thoughts that have been generated after perceiving something. This knowledge cannot be transferred because it is not a total representation of what something is supposed to mean, and consequently, no widely accepted sum of what is known can be reached.

However, on the other hand, regardless of the source of knowledge absorption, there is a plethora of ways of knowing, subjective and objective, that make knowledge valid, particularly moral knowledge. If information produced is understood from subjective ways of knowing, then subjective knowledge is meaningful regardless of how opinionated it is, as it still provides us with certain cultural contexts and understandings about morals. Learning subjective ideas can be considered knowledge as learning about individual emotions can be related to learning about human psychology with a real life source. For example, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Irony of a Negro Policeman” is a piece of artwork pertaining to racial issues. The way we perceive the artwork may tell us more about racial issues from a different perspective, perhaps through the way Basquiat depicts this policeman. The artwork can allow the audience to gain a deeper understanding about the cultural contexts involved, and how race issues are prevalent.

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