What is art?

Youtube is suggesting a documentary by NHK Japan titled Art is trash without social impact. I first read that as Art is [trash without social impact], but I think it’s meant to be Art without social impact is trash (or Without social impact, art is trash), but I’m not going to watch it to find out. (Or maybe I will later – I’m in the middle of enough videos already, partly because Youtube keeps suggesting more.)

NHK World is the international service of Japan’s national broadcaster, and I have watched a number of their travel videos.

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7 thoughts on “What is art?

  1. This ambiguity reminds me that someone on a music list once claimed that “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” really means that good music doesn’t need to swing, rather than that jazz needs to swing.

    In other words, they were interpreting it as something like “The fact that it ain’t got that swing do[es]n’t mean a thing”, with “It” referring to the clause constituting the latter portion of the sentence. But as far as I can tell, that wasn’t the Duke’s intention. The meaning most likely agreed upon is that both occurrences of “it” refer to the same thing, i.e. some unspecified piece of music.

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  2. I’m trying to get my head around the intended meaning, but not quite succeeding. I’ll keep trying.
    The interesting thing about both these sentences is that ‘Art is rubbish’ and ‘It don’t mean a thing’ are the first things we hear or read, *then* we’ve got to factor in that there’s a qualification of some kind.

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  3. The “first things we hear or read” brings to mind a syntactical joke technique used frequently by Stephen Colbert in recent years, wherein he utters a full declarative statement about something and then qualifies it by following it up with something like “…is what somebody-or-other would say”, essentially putting quotation marks around the just-uttered sentence to cancel its truth value.

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  4. Colbert has been noted for his skill in manipulating the English language to humorous ends. He invented the term “truthiness”, among other things.

    And yes, I put the comma outside the quotation marks, because I’m a long-time (albeit retired) computer programming “nerd”.

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  5. I hadn’t noticed the comma outside the quotation marks because it’s what I do anyway (cuz it’s right).
    Websites of Stephen Colbert quotations don’t make it clear which are in character and which are really him.

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    • If it helps, the Colbert quotational jokes started when he hosted The Late Show and were not a feature of his “Colbert Report” character. Also, I doubt that any such lines would make it into viral/meme/whatever quotations.

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