At first this question stumped me in a very unfamiliar way: I could not think of one example of something that might be considered a hybrid piece of art. Should I look to things that are very recent as some people are likely to, such as remix culture or interactive digital installations perhaps? Or should I look to the past and find works that constitute hybrid works of art simply by being stepping stones in the expressionist evolutionary chain. Finally, I decided to use an example from my everyday life: a graffiti mural.
This mural (as pictured above, sorry for the poor quality) hangs in my living room, measuring about 3x6 feet, and taunts me everyday with the same question that you as a teacher have now posed to the class: what is art? Is it defined by something that you love, regardless of what it may actually be representing, or what specific intention the artist had when conceiving it? Is it defined by the skill with which it was executed? Maybe it is defined by it’s very existence, as has been propositioned in class discussion. I think it is all these things, and in a sense not any of them. Art is one of those definitions that no matter how hard you try or whatever best intentions you have of trying to define it will always remain out of our reach. And you will never convince me otherwise.
However, getting back to the point of this exercise, I would posit that graffiti is a hybrid art form in terms of both the works it generates and the history of its insemination. The works themselves are a mix of text and visual representation, images, emotions, slang terminology, unique graphic style and rich in counterculture overtones. Add to that the importance of where and when the graffiti is placed the work of art becomes a dynamic conversation between the artist and his/her public that no museum or art exhibit will ever rival. Think about it, not only is there a textual component, and a visual one, but also a million choices of where to screen it. The artist literally gets to choose his/her public, a choice many artists aspire to but few attain.
My mural illustrates some of my points more clearly than I can. For instance, if you look closely, it is very hard to decipher exactly what it says. However, it is not scribbles, it is not nonsense, it is simply an allusion to the artists expression, one that I might never figure out (a realization that has taken me some time to come to terms with, as I hate unsolved puzzles). The point is this: does the fact that I can’t understand what the mural says disqualify it from the art world? Or does it simply add another layer. Or, is it just the illegal scribblings of a punk? All valid questions.
At the core of our discussions lies a theme that has disturbed me for some time. Everything we have talked about, from cyberculture to Panopticism, has had a dark underbelly focused on the defining of things one way or another in changing times. In my opinion, this is not so much a question of definitions, but a question of our right to be wrong, or to have a right to be anything at all. With the emergence and speed of such revolutionary ideas and technologies as we have been discussing, why is there so much fear about categorization? Is it because it is becoming obsolete? Maybe. Or is it something deeper, some primal need to have things fit into their little spaces in the universe. Come over and look at my wall and tell me what you think.