Art or not?

I read Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut recently. It is definitely a strange book, but still quite enjoyable. One particular passage struck me as worth quoting. It is Kurt’s response to his brother’s question, “Art or not?”

There are many good people who are beneficially stimulated by some, but not all, manmade arrangements of colours and shapes on flat surfaces, essentially nonsense.
You yourself are gratified by some music, arrangements of noises, and again essentially nonsense. If I were to kick a bucket down the cellar stairs, and then say to you that the racket I had made was philosophically on a par with The Magic Flute, this would not be the beginning of a long and upsetting debate. An utterly satisfactory and complete response on your part would be, “I like what Mozart did, and I hate what the bucket did.”
Contemplating a purported work of art is a social activity. Either you have a rewarding time, or you don’t. You don’t have to say why afterward. You don’t have to say anything.

I thought it was an interesting take on a constantly recurring question.


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