Lifelike Art/Artlike Art - Kaprow - Elitism/Populism

This post is a kind of response to the discussion oozing across the art blogosphere (among other places it's here, here, here, and here).

In the essay "The Real Experiment," Allan Kaprow lays out what he believes are the two avant-garde strands of Western art - artlike art and lifelike art. He summarizes:

Simplistically put, artlike art holds that art is separate from life and everything else, whereas lifelike art holds that art is connected to life and everything else. In other words, there is art at the service of art and art at the service of life. The maker of artlike art tends to be a specialist; the maker of lifelike art, a generalist.

And:

The root message of artlike art is separateness and specialness; and the corresponding one of all lifelike art is connectedness and wide-angle awareness.


LeisureArts situates itself a bit outside of this dichotomy. We're not all that interested in "art" in the first place, but if we had to choose, it would certainly be the lifelike camp. This camp doesn't concern itself so much with which conceptual category a particular activity falls into, but rather what this activity does, how it resonates within a personal or social milieu, whether it makes one laugh. Lifelike art "...is a weaving of meaning-making activity with any or all parts of our lives...This definition shifts the model for art from the special history of the field to a broad terrain embracing not only lifelike art but religious, philosophical, scientific, and social/personalexploration."

Artlike art is the realm of the "mainstream" avant-garde and "...artists in this tradition have tended to see their work as engaged in a professional dialogue, one art gesture responding to a previous one, and so forth." It is, therefore, a closed conversation, one open only to those who have been fully inculcated by the various institutions of artlike art.

These same institutions also try to colonize the realm of lifelike art, often to the dismay of artlike art proponents. They often feel like it trivializes their "serious" work. Of course from our perspective, these institutions trivialize life by transforming it into mere art. As Kaprow says, "These institutions 'frame' lifelike art right out of life into art (more or less ineptly at that)." Or even more succinctly, "...achieving a respected place in a museum or opera house nowadays may be flattering, but it is pointless, because it reframes lifework as conventional art."

One of the confusing points here (especially for many of the proponents of artlike art in the various blog discussions mentioned above) is that many people equate having standards with elitism. They also falsely believe that what Kaprow calls lifelike art is basically an "anything goes" philosophy, or really an "everything is good" philosophy. The thing is, one can be for standards and against elitism. And Kaprow's lifelike art can be for the breakdown of boundaries and a more inclusive idea of what may be art (or as we would put it - what may be considered in the manner of art), without saying everything is art or that it is worthwhile art. Elitism is really not about standards, but about expecting a de facto position of authority or special consideration merely because one is an artist, curator, gallerist or other self-important art professional. We at LeisureArts are happy to be plebs!

MORE HERE:
Allan Kaprow - Refusal/Un-artist
Beautiful Privacy - Kaprow - Fame