accidental art – sunday research

As roughly sketched elsewhere, I’m interested in trying to understand what it means to feel at home in ones own life. And I am especially interested in studying how the feeling of being at home, feeling home-sick, homeless etc. is voiced in art. Today it dawned on me that the concept of the vernacular might be of interest to my unsystematic research

The Vernacular – some Definitions:

  1. from Latin vernāculusnative, from vernanative slaveperhaps of Etruscan origin.
  2. the commonly spoken language or dialect of a particular people or place
  3. applied to a plant or animal in the common native speech as distinguished from the Latin nomenclature of scientific classification <the vernacular name>
  4. of, relating to, or characteristic of a period, place, or group; especially : of, relating to, or being the common building style of a period or place <vernacular architecture>
  5. dance, music, art, etc. that is in a style liked or performed by ordinary people
  6. architecture concerned with domestic and functional rather than public or monumental buildings

All this is very interesting, but what especially caught my eye was this definition from Wikipedia on vernacular photography:

Vernacular photography or amateur photography refers to the creation of photographs by amateur or unknown photographers who take everyday life and common things as subjects. Though the more commonly known definition of the word “vernacular” is a quality of being “indigenous” or “native,” the use of the word in relation to art and architecture refers more to the meaning of the following subdefinition (of vernacular architecture) from The Oxford English Dictionary: “concerned with ordinary domestic and functional buildings rather than the essentially monumental.” Examples of vernacular photographs include travel and vacation photos, family snapshots, photos of friends, class portraits, identification photographs, and photo-booth images. Vernacular photographs are types of accidental art, in that they often are unintentionally artistic.

accidental art, isn’t it just marvelous! The concept of accidental art brings the idea of art down from all kinds of theoretical abstractions and into the ordinary, everyday life – where it belongs; where it is made & perceived, and also, as I see it; into the sphere where art actually can make an interesting difference.

Even if most of us make art by hard work, it still has an accidental side to it, you never know when its gonna happen, when its really gonna work – great work is an accident or a miracle, if you will. It is not something we can control. As the French philosopher Deleuze once put it: Even the best artists rarely make very good art …

5 Comments Add yours

  1. I think you are onto something here, with the idea of vernacular!

  2. beaumontjones says:

    I agree there are always accidents in art, in the sense that the artist could always have chosen another path than the one taken. But ‘accidental art’? Is it art? My feeling is no. Art is a deliberate act not an accident; although an accident could be retrospectively transformed into art by an artist. But not accidentally.

    1. Sigrun says:

      hm, I had forgotten about this post, but find that there are some ideas here worth following. I guess a relevant question is: do one have to be an artist to make art?

      1. beaumontjones says:

        Annoying circularity but I think it’s a chicken and egg thing. If you make art you are an artist. And artists make art. You may be a bad or good or mediocre artist but nonetheless an artist and your work is art.
        Of course it is not really that simple. But calling things art after the fact is disingenuous.

  3. beaumontjones says:

    I am thinking of, for example, Christian Boltanski who took school photographs of Jewish children in Vienna and made combine / collage works with them to evoke the Holocaust. he also did this with clothing. The art was Boltanski’s rather than the school photographer’s or the person who designed or sewed the clothing. Although these latter could perhaps claim that they too were artists. Boltanski’s acts of selection and presentation makes the vernacular artefacts (the school photos) into art.

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