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Art as Novelty

What is art? Asking that question makes you think there is a single answer, but I've decided that for me there are two answers, two different definitions of art.

First, art can be thought of as quality, that is, as quality of execution. The meaning here is close to “craft”, not in the frivolous sense that I associate with the phrase “arts and crafts” but in the sense of being well-crafted, or of craftmanship. This is more or less the interpretation my dictionary uses; among many other definitions, there is the following.

High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value.

However, I tend to think of art not as quality, but as novelty. Back when I was first exposed to modern art—specifically, to some modern paintings—my first reaction was wonder. Why would anyone bother doing this? Why couldn't everyone just stick to painting nice landscapes? Over time, however, I've come to understand the appeal of creating new and different things. (Ironically, it seems to me that modern art has succeeded not in creating true novelty but rather in creating a large number of works that are similar in their pointless variation. However, I should also point out that I really don't know the first thing about it.)

Talking about art as novelty is all well and good, but is not very tangible. To give you a better idea what I mean, I'd like to discuss some examples of different kinds of novelty and indicate which of those kinds are interesting to me. (Your mileage may vary—different people are attracted to different kinds of novelty.)

Since the discussion turned out to be longer than I imagined, I've broken it into components. First of all, when I talk about the idea of different kinds of novelty, I actually have something fairly specific in mind. After that, the rest of my discussion is really just an analysis of the actual different kinds of novelty present in a particular type of work, namely, books. Just for convenience, I've divided the different kinds into two categories: variations in form and variations in content.

While putting together the analysis, I realized there was an actual conclusion to be reached: purposeless variation is not interesting to me.


  See Also

  Examples of the Second Pattern
  Science Fiction
  Seek the Original

@ April (2000)
  September (2000)