• Bhang, Youngmoon

Art defines us: What is Art - How can Art define us as human race?

Art defines us: What is Art? How can Art define us?

- on a photographer's perspective


"The emergence of symbolic language, first spoken, then written, represents the sharpest break between animal and man. Many social animals have some system of communication by signs and signals, but language is a species-specific, exclusive property of man." - Arthur Koestler

What is ART? Why ART so important to us?


I would like to talk about the importance of the arts and about photography as the arts with you.

Because, the arts can define us as the human race.


So, How can I tell you the arts can define us?

Let's begin with this question.



at the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape (c) 2017 BHANG Youngmoon

About communication


Michael Tomasello, the Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, explains about the language of early human race and its development process. Let's think about body language. If you want to explain about something to your colleagues, such as "There are many apple trees over there", how can you explain the situation without modern human language?


There are some indispensable conditions for this communication process.

First of all, you have to distinguish between yourself and the other one. After that, the status, the other one doesn't know about the specific situation but you know, is the situation you have to be aware of. In this process, speaker - in this case we don't have concrete vocabulary, yet - you can only use sign language and pitch variations. But even there is no modern linguistic structure, the process is very complicated.


You need to explain about apples, trees and distant place.

You can explain apples like this way, trees and distant place.


And to communicate with other human, you need to separate meanings from tangible objects. You need to describe apples, trees and distant place. Which means, you can understand that real apple and your hands are different. The process that separate abstract concept from tangible object is very special ability of highly intelligent species, in this case, we - human race - are only one species on the Earth who have it. Let's think about it. This process is seemingly easy to construct but we already made a sentence. A message resolved into the subject and the predicate as a linguistic sentence.


Other creatures can make something.

Beaver can make lodge, apes can use tools. Just as Vilém Flusser said, "imprint a new; intentional form onto things." They also inform them. Things acquire improbable form. But, only human can endue things with ideal meaning. Only we can give ideal meaning into object. So, piece of wood become a god, 2-dimensional plane can be masterpiece. More than 40,000 years ago, human race drew the cave painting, make carvings in wood or stone and gave it meaning. This is the distinguished activities of human race. Only we can do like that on this earth.



Accumulated knowledge & information


From the early human race's sign/ body language, in this present age, innumerous abstract ideas and concepts are proliferating in the human communication. Only human race can separate meaning from the empirical world, draw abstract ideas from tangible phenomena. And only human race can share complicated information with each other.


Codes symbols and linguistic expressions are the exclusive property of human race. Furthermore, we can express abstract idea on 2 dimensional plane, inform things to express abstract idea to manifest various invisible ideas to the world. Contents and results of human communication have been accumulated on various kinds of recording media such as rocks, woods, clay tablets and many other material. This accumulative feature of human culture has made us most civilized race on the Earth.


Only human can separate meaning from tangible object or vice versa.

More than 40,000 years ago, human race drew pictures on the wall of cave and gave it meaning.

Only human can endue things with ideal meaning, give ideal meaning into object.

Piece of wood become a god, 2-dimensional plane can be masterpiece in human perception.


For this reason, I would like to tell you that "Art defines us."

The Act of Art is very unique activity of human race,

And this activity defines us as human race.