“What is art?” A friend of mine posed this question the other day during our lunch conversation, “You either have a very broad definition that includes absolutely everything or it’s too narrow to mean anything.”
Indeed, the term has been used more and more loosely over the years. In 2004, a panel of 500 art experts announced Duchamp’s white urinal, titled Fountain, the most influential modern art work of all time. No doubt a milestone in art history? DaVinci probably turned in his grave. Such a choice does make me wonder, to say the least. Next thing you know, getting up for a 9a.m.-lecture or making scrambled eggs in the microwave is considered art as well. While both tasks indisputably require a certain amount of skill and – on the latter part – culinary imaginativeness, neither of them classifies you as a gifted artist. But this is arguably just a matter of perception. Whatever individual taste or preference, we all agree on enjoying the arts in one form or another.
After all, you can lack an artistic bent and still value a splendid theater performance or music festival. We no longer live in the Elizabethan era, when the audience was actively engaged in the plot. Some of you would probably think twice about attending a Shakespeare play, if you were expected to join the actors on stage. For others, the opportunity of slipping into the shoes of Hamlet’s accomplice would make the whole theater experience all the more exciting.
Whether you prefer being in the spotlight or watching from a safe distance, this little seaside town hosts various events, with the annual On The Rocks Festival in spring as the peak of art celebration. Thanks to an extensive transport system, all major Scottish cities are accessible within a few hours. You could easily catch an evening show in Edinburgh but be sure to check the bus schedules – you wouldn’t be the first St Andrews student stranded over night. In comparison, some of the picturesque villages in the Fife area, like Pittenweem and Dunfermline, are noticeably easier to reach and offer their very own art shows, festivals and gallery openings.
As fun as it is to watch someone else perform, we all have an artist hidden deep inside. Fair enough, not every student is a born Picasso; however, you’re all familiar with the overpowering urge to sing under the shower, spontaneously re-organize the bedroom furniture or doodle on a notepad whilst talking on the phone. A generally subconscious action – very much to the amusement of roommates or friends. After all, such outbreaks of creativity are not only entertaining but considerably the perfect way to procrastinate. I’m just thinking of my friend who manages to successfully neglect her maths assignments for an entire afternoon to master the art of painting hot pink leopard print nails.
Although St Andrews lacks a School of Fine Arts, an extraordinary large number of talented artists wander the streets of this town. Mermaids’ seemingly infinite repertoire of student actors, producers and stage crew enables it to put on a continuous line-up of high-quality plays. Student designers are represented on the catwalks of numerous fashion shows alongside internationally recognized labels. Professors and students alike mingle in the always packed Byre Theatre for live jazz on Thursday nights. And the list of artistic engagements in St Andrews goes on.
Looking at this issue of The Saint, you might get an idea of the town’s rich and diverse art scene. Whether bringing puppets to life, finding new approaches to the scarlet gown tradition, or looking at the theatrical talent of a gay-friendly rugby team, St Andrews students never seize to surprise with fresh ideas and overflowing creativity.
We are constantly surrounded or immediately involved in art; it is always a prominent factor in our daily life. And still, we haven’t found a universally accepted definition of the term yet, nor are we likely to do so at any point in the near future. However, I felt inspired by the wisdom of one of the great minds of the 19th century. In Nietzsche’s words: “Art is the proper task of life.” Let’s make sure, we live it to the fullest.
— Susann Landefeld