The question “What is art?” has always been of interest to me. The subjective nature of art often leaves us questioning whether or not something truly is art. Is it truly art if someone is just slinging paint against a canvas? What if it could have been done by a five-year-old? What if it was done by a five-year-old? Nowadays, with computers, a new kind of question is arising: How much human intervention is required to make art?

The above image is a great example of this question. I put it together just to torture my coworkers. (I use it as the lock screen image on my computer.) It probably took me 20 minutes total. Still, one of my coworkers said, “That looks like it could be hanging in a museum.” Another replied, “Not any museum I’d go to.”

The original was a selfie that I took at the dentist’s office.

Me at the dentist

I doubt anyone would call that art. The only thing about it that might qualify it as art is that it produces an emotional response. The composition is weird. It’s fairly monochromatic. The lighting is flat. Other than the disgust and terror that I had in mind when I took it, it really doesn’t offer much.

But, here’s where it gets interesting..

I ran it through a couple of filters in Prisma, an Android app that applies art filters to photos. here are the most and least extreme modifications that I liked:

Me at the dentist with a Prisma filter

Me at the dentist with another Prisma filter

These were both literally one click options in the app. I flipped through all the options in the app and picked out the eight that I liked most. It probably took me five minutes, ten max. The next morning, I opened up Inkscape (because I’m a bit more adept with that than I am Gimp) and stitched them into the collage that you saw at the beginning of this post. It probably took me another 20 minutes to half an hour. The only real thought I put into the process was that when I had laid them all out in tiles, I realized that it was horribly off balance, so I rearranged a bit.

That’s it. That’s all I did, about an hour’s worth of work. There was no Herculean effort.

In the process of writing this post, I Googled the definition of “art” because, after all, we’re talking about definitions.

the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

“Producing works to be appreciated” was the direct opposite of my goal. I wanted to disgust and annoy. So that’s not it.

So when did this become art? Is it when I chose the filters that complemented the image? Is it when I paused to rearrange the tiles? Or is it not even art at all? I’m honestly not sure.

But I may stick it in my porftolio anyway.