Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Essay by Roy Cook: Flawed visions in defining LEGO as art

Five years ago, Roy Cook, who is both a LEGO Ambassador and a university professor who teaches aesthetics, posted a very interesting essay on the Brothers-Brick, Flawed visions in defining LEGO as art. You should definitely read the whole thing, including the very interesting and often very thoughtful 75 (!) comments that accompany the article. Here, though, are some key excerpts:
... in order to be an artwork, a LEGO creation needs to incorporate three elements:
Form: (the creation has to display some minimum of building skill)
Content: (the creation has to express a message, emotion, etc.)
Context: (the creation has to be situated in a larger historical or traditional context)
The problem, more generally, is that we, as a community, equate LEGO artworks with LEGO creations that resemble other art forms. Thus LEGO mosaics, LEGO sculptures, and perhaps LEGO vignettes get grouped under the technical term ‘Art’, regardless of whether they actually satisfy the criteria for being artworks.
After critiquing a museum event that recreated a famous painting as a LEGO mosaic, he notes:
Nevertheless, identifying LEGO art with LEGO creations that resemble artworks in other media does little to advance appreciation of LEGO as a unique art form.
In response to the work of the Little Artists (who I'll get around to blogging sometime soon), Roy notes:
Again, we have the idea that LEGO artworks, and in particular, great LEGO artworks, are those LEGO creations that resemble (or, in this case, are flat-out authorized forgeries of) great artworks in other art forms.
What we have yet to grasp, as a group (and as a society as a whole), is that LEGO is an artistic medium unto itself. LEGO creations need to resemble neither great paintings nor great sculptures in order to be great artworks.
Instead of mindlessly categorizing particular LEGO creations as artworks merely because they vaguely resemble masterpieces in other art forms, we need to begin to think hard about what makes a LEGO creation a great work of art, or a work of art at all.
Roy definitely gives us a lot to think about in that essay, and I'll have some thoughts in response in a subsequent post, but I urge anyone interested in this topic to read the whole thing over on the Brothers-Brick.

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