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Diversity in Art, Essay Example

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The concept of a diversity in art appears to correspond with a multiplicity of ways of making art, as well as a general opening of those who are accepted as artists. This sea change may be understood from the perspective of diverse communities: what is accepted as art is not merely the product of a particular social group or class, intended for the consumption of a particular social group or class. Rather, it can be said that art understood as a diverse community breaks down these barriers, and this is one of its primary objectives. Art is no longer merely aesthetics, but interventions into our social structures.

In order to understand art from such a diverse communities perspective, it is firstly necessary to contrast it with more traditional understandings of art. Arthur C. Dano understands that a certain radical shift has occurred in the art of the twentieth century, a shift that is harmonious with the break from so-called “modernist” understandings of art. According to Danto, this movement arose when questions began to emerge about what art itself is. He writes: “the philosophical question of the nature of art…was something that arose within art when artists pressed against boundary after boundary, and found that the boundaries all gave way.” (296) What is key to this modernist understanding of art was that art was something that was clearly defined. From a diverse communities perspective, this means that art was fundamentally limited in terms of who could make it, what could be made, and who could “consume” the finished work: in short, there existed only one “community” of art. Post-modernism marks the moment when artists realize the limits of this singular artistic community, made up of the aforementioned elements. Now there are no limits: a multiplicity of communities may emerge, performing art in their own way. Yet by doing so, art also challenges the boundaries that have attempted to define it. Art becomes a form of liberation for the individual artist, and a form of liberation from the limiting community: “Artists, liberated from the burden of history, were free to make art in whatever way they wished, for any purposes they wished, or for no purposes at all.” (p. 297)

Accordingly, this is an instance of cultural self-awareness, whereby the artist understands that the boundaries of what art is and what it can be are the products of a particular culture. A multiplicity of communities means breaking these walls down, or as Hicks writes, the goal of these artists becomes “the transformation of social conditions.” (301) For example, when artists realize that art was culturally limited, and try to go beyond these limitations, they change the entire social structure itself. For example, the artist Judy Baca endeavors to make a form of art that speaks to the concerns of the minority Chicano community in Los Angeles, giving them a cultural voice, while also helping them change their immediate urban environment, having “been personally involved with more than 150 murals” (Hicks, 302) in the area. Art becomes a means with which to improve social conditions.

The artists and the theories of art which philosophers such as Hicks and Danto mention introduce us to a more radical definition of art. Namely, art should not be something that is looked at as possessing a stable definition. This is the stable definition of art, which thinks art emerges in precise social and political situations, such as reflecting the norms of a particular community. In this sense, art is not political, but merely something that exists within an already established political system. What post-modern art does is that it shows that even this art is political: it is a boundary, as Danto notes, which has been created by a social structure, and therefore it is a product of this social structure. However, by realizing how such a view of art supports a single ideology, we can expose the tendencies of this ideology. When art becomes self-conscious of its own surroundings, it can also go beyond the situation in which it emerges and change it. Art does not become the voice of a singular community, but can become the voice of a multiple alternative communities.

Works Cited

Danto, Arthur C. “After the End of Art.”

Hicks, Emily. “The Artist as Citizen.”

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