In general, people like to categorize everything so that there are words to associate with concepts and objects. This specificity is a time saving tool. It keeps us from having to mime everything in daily life.
Sometimes specificity can become a burden, especially when the information regarding a certain thing obscures what it actually is. Søren Kierkegaard is often quoted as saying “Once you label me you negate me.” I’m not sure of the original context of this statement, nor am I sure that it did indeed come from him, nor am I willing to do the research that would be required to find out. Suffice it to say that a confident person would not be likely to indicate that their personal value was so fleeting as to be snuffed out by a casual encounter with another’s taxonomy. Therefore, I am assuming that Kierkegaard was not very confident, thus not likely to state unbiased information, thus quite likely to have said something of the ilk of the preceding quote, thus unworthy of my time and attention. I could be wrong, but my current opinion is of greater importance to me than ruminations on the speculations of what may or may not be true regarding someone that isn’t even alive and didn’t seem to have it all together when he was.
The point that I am (finally) approaching is this: We are not changed by the opinions of others unless we allow that change or we are physically unable to resist a forced change. Let’s use as an example a person who is labeled as “worthless” by others. This person may be of low enough self-esteem that they begin to believe this label to be true. They may have felt negated, and they might actually physically negate themselves by some means of self disposal. As another example a person of formidable self-worth, yet unable to move or speak is stuffed in a box labeled “incinerator”. These two examples could be extrapolated and expounded upon to cover pretty much every aspect of how labeling can negate.
The negation could rarely happen immediately because depression is not usually instantaneous and the cleaning lady doesn’t usually get in until after hours.
One label that is thrown around to a point of desensitization is the label ART. Most dictionaries have several definitions of art, ranging from “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance” or “The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium” to “Artful devices, stratagems, and tricks” and “Skills and techniques”.
Personally I think the saturation of the meaninglessness of the term “art” has reached its apex. That’s right, a meaningless saturation apex! Being an artist doesn’t mean anything, it certainly doesn’t make you anything special. On some level everyone is an artist. No matter how banal ones expressions may be, a person cannot but help create something. They cannot help but influence the feelings of others. Even if that influence is just creating a sense of tension or chaos when they enter the room, they have created a unique and recognizable expression that moves people to discuss the work of that artist. They may wait until the artist has left the room, but any publicity is good publicity to an up and coming “edgy” irritation artist. The fact that individuals are recognized for their own particular creation (whether that creation is boredom, chaos, chewing loudly or anything really) shows that nobody can be totally unoriginal. So to say that your “art” is “original” is about as useful as saying nothing, except that it takes up everyone’s valuable time, so it is even less effective than saying nothing. Unless your art IS wasting peoples time, then good job! I’m sure nobody out there does it quite like you, and one day you will find your market.
People say that if you increase your vocabulary you will better be able to express yourself. That would be true if most people were smart and knew the same words as you. But sadly, even the most educated people just end up using more words in imprecise ways. The handful of people who know how to properly use pretty much every english word have to make constant compromises with their speech just to communicate. And a little news flash: the english “sticklers” are just people who are too oblivious to see that they are championing a losing cause. Yes, there are certain things that irritate each of us about the way others use language, but the “rules” will eventually change to accommodate the masses, just as they always have. So, if you’re “right” about some “proper usage” or punctuation scenario, just remember that in 10 or 20 years you will open a book and the rules will have changed to require what used to be “wrong” and the same people you “corrected” will still remember the story and laugh at you velocitously at anecdote parties.
I used to have a ponderous vocabulary, but I quickly learned that you use language primarily to communicate with others, not to write clever notes to yourself (although those notes are funny). Dumb it down and vague it up if you want to communicate.
Dumbing it down is difficult for many of us (I guess it’s a good thing that there aren’t THAT many). There is a certain voluntary cheapening or lessening of one’s self, an elective negation. One needs to decide how many scoops to take out of one’s own heart. What it then comes down to is, how many labels we are willing to accept.
I have always preserved the part I consider to be my “art” (whatever art may be), a visual documentation of “original” thoughts. Something from me, by me and for me, in a language that doesn’t change and doesn’t require labels or translation. On my end it doesn’t change, although I must say that the WORD “art” has changed for me over the years, and has - like so many words that have fallen before it - lost all meaning to me. I don’t mind if other people use it, if it still has meaning to them. I don’t mind if they use other words that don’t apply to what I do, to describe what I do. Even words like “abstract” or “contemporary” that have no descriptive value whatsoever don’t really bother me that much. I will still use such words with many qualifiers to convey a properly developed generalization to an academically inclined noggin.
So I will sometimes call my work “art” even though it may not be art by my definition or perhaps anyone elses. In the past, I have even tried to assign it an ism. I’ve tried Altruistic Depressionism, Objective Associationism, Artism, Artlike Documentationism and many others, but the fact is that none of those describe what I do. What I do describes what I do. I have never made a work of “art” for anyone else, I’ve just done what I wanted to do for whatever my reasons.
I always destroyed and trashed all of my school art projects immediately after the teacher graded them and handed them back to me. This usually resulted in a lower score, going from an A or A+ to a B, C or D instantly. I always wondered what made it so precious to the teacher when it had no meaning to me. Did it have meaning that was somehow negated by its new assignment to be trash? That didn’t make any sense, because it was always trash to me, from the moment the teacher gave us the assignment my process was all about how fast I could destroy the evidence of my compliance. I think the meaning the teacher saw was in the idea that he was helping young people see the value of art in their lives, so when he saw me throw away something created with thought and care, it hurt, and he made a quick show of the fact that he was upset. So, since my audience was visibly affected and could even put a score on it (B,C,D), it must have been art, but it was probably performance art (whatever that is).