Re-presenting – Measuring: Function

My fascination over ‘What is Art’


One of the key reasons Hotham Court is not art is because of its purely practical purpose – to house students. It does not want to be art, and so it is not.  Its function is not to be on display. Let me exemplify with Michelangelo’s sculpture David, which had an underlying aim – to represent Florence’s republic as heroic and their defeat of Milan’s tyrant, as worthy; yet, it always had an aesthetic aim – to be on show. This was originally going to be on the top of the Florentine cathedral but so it could be more overt it has stayed in front of the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio.


I find it very hard to define art beyond the confines of the environments we see it in usually. Traditionally this would be a painting in an art gallery, and a sculpture on a plinth in a plaza. Now here is where architecture poses a problem for me in my theorem. Architecture always has a practical purpose as well as the visual one that makes it art. If it lacks this practical purpose it is instead an installation, or a monument. But when does a building become crucially ‘a piece’ of architecture? – which is that same language we use for fine art. I can only see this as an answerable question when in correlation with function. Architecture for example does not appear in one kind of setting, for example dock side like the Sydney Opera House. Also many architects work on the commercial – or practical side of design – design beyond aesthetics, for example Norman Foster’s firm designs a merry number of toilets.


In other words – art has to be art. It has to want to be art – to serve people as art. Whatever this service may be: entertainment, visual satisfaction, intellectual stimulation or soul searching – none of these are right, or wrong functions of art. Art must be consciously designed to be art. In this argument – the content and the journey to the final product may be spontaneous, even found in its finished form (ready-made), but the displaying of it, is what gives it its function. It does not need to be in an ornate frame because it may be on a much larger scale, or distributed over a much larger area – for example Jean Claude and Christo’s Wrapped Coast in Little Bay, Australia. Art is not a game of hide and seek. It is the monetary business of making, displaying, buying and selling. 


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