On Art

When I think of art, I think of any activity that is an expression of a person’s creativity. When you enter “what is art” into google, you get the following:


This seems rather restrictive to me. Obviously when someone mentions art, the first few things that come to mind are music, painting, literature, dance or acting – what I would call the fine arts. Anything that can be called beautiful. But I would argue that almost everything can be beautiful. Any high level sporting event. A piece of programming code can be beautiful, watching someone lay bricks. In general, almost any work can exhibit beauty. Personally, I have to think pretty hard in order to think of something that cannot exhibit beauty: e.g., someone un-enthusiastically working the register at a fast food chain.

Not everyone can appreciate all beauty. I personally do not understand ballet or opera at all. I am not sure if I’m incapable of it, or whether I am missing some education. There is a whole spectrum to the experience one can have in order to be able to appreciate the beauty in different things. Going back to my programming example from above, I have been programming for a very long time, and so consider myself to be a good judge of whether a certain piece of code is of high quality or not. But most people, since they aren’t programmers, wouldn’t be able to tell spaghetti code from an expertly crafted, functionally-oriented section of JavaScript. I guess that means everything can be beautiful, but only if you have the necessary background to appreciate it.

I used to play a lot of video games growing up. First on the Atari 2600, then the Sega Master System, and then mostly PC games. But I gradually stopped playing completely during college. Out of lack of interest, not time constraints. After having worked for several years, I realized that programming was scratching the same itch that playing games used to. This made me realize that you could think of playing games as making art for your personal consumption: the game forces you to be creative in order to pass levels/achieve a high score/kill all the other players/etc. The games themselves can and should also be considered art in their own right (the graphics, the music, the storytelling), but the playing of the game certainly is too. I accidentally started watching the Tetris World Championships a few weeks ago, and it took me a while to stop. Have spent many, many hours playing it, I could certainly appreciate the mastery displayed by the competitors. Though in this example, the game itself isn’t exactly beautiful.

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