A couple of years ago I had a student who had fled Julliard and joined the Navy, which is how he ended up in my night class at a naval air station in the middle of Nowhere, CA. He was an interesting fellow and during a unit on art, he came up with a definition which I thought was pretty neat and certainly well thought out. Unfortunately I forgot his definition, but I was reminded of him the last time my informal coffee house philosphy group met. We've been slogging through the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas for the last six months and are nowhere near the end of the tunnel. Fascinating stuff, really---but what reminded me of that young sailor was Aquinas' accepting that some things cannot be defined other than by defining what something is not(God, in the Summa) and how, I'm wondering, that maybe that can be a way of defining "art"---by defining what it is "not" instead of attempting to define what it "is." The reason for my curiosity about this comes from what I've discovered about my own enjoyment of a photograph and how it is not really based on "creativity" but rather a recording of a time past. Even with most of the abstracts I've enjoyed looking at, I find that what makes for a "successful" image(to my mind, anyway) is not the result of some contrivance, but rather from some acute observation of some detail---record if you will---of some "thing" that had been photographed(past tense) This seems to me to be the opposite of what many espouse in those dreaded "artist's statements" I keep seeing at exhibitions.
OK theres got to be a bunch of art institute graduates ready to jump on me for asking this, but here it goes anyway: Can you give me a definition for what "isn't" Art? At least from the photographic standpoint so as not to be too OT?