We want to breathe the art of wit when we sit for our meditations. Art, from the Art of Altamira to the the Art of the Deal, is, we don’t shun this bold statement, first and foremost a celebration. We imagine anthropological researchers digging up objects with no evident usefulness. What to do with them? There are many younger accounts (we are still talking about the first hominids, not about the Neolithic revolution) that establish the connection between them and superstitions. But older than our need to understand the world and fill in our perceived gaps in the fabric of causality with the supernatural, is our need to celebrate.
Celebration is play organized around a common purpose, and fosters a strong bond in tribes. Since this is a meditation, we are allowed to think this here without providing footnotes or references. Celebration is as old as tribal cooperation itself, we submit. Let’s not forget to breathe.
So, art began as act and celebration. Dance and music were the first art forms (they leave no fossil traces so that’s not a falsifiable hypothesis). This communal dancing and singing wasn’t always the most efficient way to bond, especially in times of hardships. As our symbolical minds became more powerful, we began to create artefacts. A visual artwork is the shadow of a celebration.
We breathe calmly and feel the rest of our body. We now define an artwork as a human-made object that celebrates its own existence. We quickly check if this is true from daguerrotypes to Duchamp to David. Of course, an object cannot celebrate anything. That is ‘just’ our interpretation. We are always allowed to rephrase this within Kantian “apostrophes”: an artwork is a human-made object that its observer is able to see as celebrating its own existence. I like this definition that feels Nietzschean.
Yes, there is a nature of the artwork. We can trace it back through archeology of the mind, following our proclivity to celebrate.