What is art?
This is the sort of question that perplexes philosophers, challenges artists, and is generally the bane of any student required to undertake a first level philosophy course.
The reason the question is so difficult, of course, is that art is a commodity which may be judged almost exclusively in the eye of the beholder.
Or, as Terence Trent D'Arby prophetically put it, it is "anything you can get away with".
A recent case in the United States illustrates, however, that one may not always get away with one's art - especially where one's employment is concerned.
Tamara Hoover had a job as an art teacher at a high school in Texas. Her job involved lecturing teenage students.
It appears that the school was impressed by Ms Hoover's credentials. She was a popular and successful teacher.
But then the school changed its mind about her.
One of Ms Hoover's students brought it to the school's attention that photographs of her were posted on a major photography site - flickr.com.
Amongst other things, the photos depicted Ms Hoover in the shower, lifting weights, getting dressed, lying in bed and performing other routine activities. In some photographs she was topless.
The school was outraged. It said that the photographs evidenced that Ms Hoover was not of the appropriate moral standard to be a teacher. It escorted her off its premises - and an attempt was subsequently made to revoke her teaching certification.
For her part, Hoover was equally outraged. She said that the photographs were her own art - and they illustrated her aptitude at the very thing which she was employed to teach.
Further, one would imagine that Hoover could legitimately make the point that she had created this "art" in her own time, on her own premises - and that by displaying it on the photography website she could hardly be said to be exposing students to it in an unwanted fashion.
The case is far from over. Supporters of Hoover recently staged a rally to demonstrate their anger over the decision - and Hoover herself is now seeking contributions (through a personal website) to allow her to oppose the attempt to deregister her teaching qualification.
But could the same thing happen here?
Under New Zealand law, it is accepted that certain acts performed outside of the workplace can affect the employment relationship. Where there is a link between the out of work activity, and the tasks required of the employee in his or her work, the employer can be justified in raising an employment problem.
In this case, Hoover did not break any laws. The manner in which the photographs were taken was legal - and there is no suggestion that they were lewd or contrary to any censorship requirements. It seems, in fact, that the core of the problem was simply that the employer regarded Hoover's definition of "art" as inconsistent with the moral position required of teachers.
Under New Zealand law, the question would be whether the employer reasonably concluded that this activity was such that it undermined the trust and confidence that it was entitled to expect of her as a teacher.
The nature of the out of work activity - and the nature of the employment - are both relevant factors to consider in this exercise. The answer could be influenced if, for example:
In this way, the answer will turn on the facts of the case - but under New Zealand law a dismissal could be justified.
The other feature of the case is its illustration of the way in which the internet is, in effect, a public place - and is accessible by employers as a means of scrutinising the activities of their employees (including things done outside of the workplace).
In days gone by, the type of activity undertaken by Hoover would presumably be confined to a niche interest photography magazine - or to a private exhibition. Nowadays, of course, not only is "art" of this nature available to anyone with internet access - any number of personal experiences (be they recorded in text, holiday photograph form or video clip) are available on the internet.
And depending on what those pieces of information contain, employees may find themselves held to account by their bosses.
In short, therefore, be careful of your definition of "art".
And don't post it on the internet.