Freedom and Genius

For Kant, art is free. Unlike with nature, where there is a necessary process of reproduction, with art there is a freedom of choice. The artist has the freedom to choose to start and stop making art, to bring into existence an objective expression. Art is free because it is not dedicated to some use. Art is spirit, an expression of freedom in civilization, under constraint. Art allows for expression and is restricting at the same time. Kant says, “In all free arts something of a compulsory character is still required, or, as it is called, a mechanism, without which the spirit, which in art must be free, and which alone gives life to the work, would be bodiless and evanescent.”1 That is, art is a free expression, but there are still rules of skill, technique, history, and tradition involved. These act as a ground from which spirit can leap.

For Kant, the artist possess genius, the originality and singularity of the artists. Genius is innate, a natural talent, born within the artist, that which cannot be learned. But to be a genius also requires academic training and an understanding of past knowledge and tradition. Natural talent picks up academic training easily and the originality of the artist contributes to how they appropriate the academic training. It is a reflection and experimentation.

Art is not science or theory. It is a practical doing. Art is also not a hand craft. It is not something that has an end, or purpose, in the thing itself. The purpose of art is to create reflective pleasure. The artist wants to give the audience something to think about, while making the experience pleasurable.

1. Kant, Critique of Judgment, section 43. page 134.


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