Bulky, imposing, beautiful, queer, and satanic are just a couple of adjectives used to describe Yan Shpilsky’s big metallic boots. But are they works of art? To answer this baffling question, or to at least formulate my own decision, I turned to the leaders of tomorrow for their valuable insight.
Ambitious young Ukrainian Leonid Morozovsky believes that it might be art because “people created them.” I reminded him that people or machines created the desk in our philosophy room, yet we agree that it is not a work of art. It is merely functional. It was not designed to be art. He then changed his mind and imitated Aristotle’s beliefs, as he stated that the shoes are an angry German’s vision of what a shoe ought to be.
This was a possibility, as Yan bought these shoes to feel the power associated with the genre of music he listens to, namely angry German rock and roll. However, Yan disagreed with Leonid’s ideas. The shoes just look awesome, and are functional because they give him two inches of height and an imposing presence. I asked Yan why he believes the shoes are not art, and he replied that they are not art because they do not convey truth. My next question caught him by surprise.
“If I draw Yan with ballerina shoes on, is it art?” I asked.
“No, it is not, because it does not convey truth, unless it is a metaphor,” he answered.
Yan’s beliefs were interesting, but I moved on to Clive Bell’s philosophy of art. Art has a significant form, which stirs aesthetic emotions. These aesthetic emotions are not the commonly accepted feelings such as love, hate, anger, happiness, and sadness. They are strong emotions, often ecstatic. With this definition of art, Yan’s shoes must be art, based on their encounter with a certain lunch lady at Stuyvesant High School. This woman informed Yan that his shoes were incredible. They were “beautiful,” she said. I would say she was overwhelmed.
Leo Tolstoy presents an intriguing counter to that situation in “What Is Art?” Is art primarily for conveying emotions, as Clive Bell seems to suggest? I would disagree with this idea, as cave paintings were not intended to express emotions. They were designed to tell stories. Tolstoy defines good art as art that is infectious, and Yan’s shoes are by far the most infectious shoes I have ever witnessed. They capture attention like no other.
Although some would argue that intention to create art is an important aspect of art, and others argue that intention to create art results in lower forms of art, I believe that intention is meaningless. Leonardo da Vinci knew when he created art; he produced art for money. Yet his work can be more touching than an accidental splash of paint. On the other side, if a homeless man’s jacket was to fly off his body and become miraculously pinned to a canvas that happened to be nearby at an outdoor art gallery, that would be viewed as one of the greatest pieces ever. At least I know I would view it that way.
I decided that I consider art to be anything that captures an image, sound, or emotion, and can cause a strong reaction in other people. Yan’s shoes capture the brute and industrial nature of the music he listens to, such as Marilyn Manson. Functionality and intention play no part in whether something is art. In my humble opinion, Yan is walking around (he cannot run or jump in them) wearing a piece of art when he should be displaying it. According to Mr. Shpilsky, the shoes cost his mother nearly two hundred dollars, and art like that would be better off preserved.