Sunday, November 1, 2009
What is Art?
Someone posted this in a forum I frequent, and I thought I'd post the questions - and my own answers - here. I'm interested in hearing from anyone who feels like stepping up to the microphone...er, comment section. The questions posed are in bold font.
What is art?
Art's a LOT like religion (for some of us it IS our religion) in that what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. Likewise the definition of same. For ME, art is that which moves my soul in a positive direction. Doesn't mean I'm all about bunnies and butterflies, though. I am particularly fond of strange oddities, said fondness often utterly confusing my "normal" friends. That said, I am also the first to call bullshit on what I call "Art School/Critic Crap-speak." Just because a guy CAN shit on a canvas in the middle of a crowd does NOT make it art because of its supposed avant-garde aroma (so to speak). Codswallop and rubbish I cry! But like religion, art is enourmously personal, so who am I really to say that act of defecation isn't art? It sure as shit isn't MY idea of art (pun intended), 'cause my soul isn't moved to anything but disgust, and so-called art that is repulsive doesn't make the cut for my inner gallery. Sadness I gladly incorporate, but not something that destroys the spirit rather than heals.
Why is art important?
One of the only things that makes humans worthwhile is our ability to express our feelings through art. Sure, elephants and apes paint, and maybe they're expressing their feelings through art, too. Hard to say since we currently have no metrics that allow us to measure their feelings with any degree of accuracy. Hell, we've JUST figured out that fish feel pain (well, DUH). In order to evolve as a species, we must grow as a society, and that requires the Individual to be aware of both others' and their own feelings. I wish I could report that human beings are good at being mindful of our emotions, either collectively or individually, but sadly we're not. And so art - music, film, sculpture, painting, textile, etc. etc. etc. becomes essential to our progress as a species.
Growing up as I did during the depth of the Cold War, I have been a fan of dystopian fiction usually involving a small group of humans trying to survive some terrible apocalypse. With almost no exceptions, the individuals chosen by writers, filmmakers, television honchos, etc. as essential members of their depicted band have all been useful in terms of their "hard" worth. That is, their ability to help their band survive via their expertise in some methodology involving machines or science, guns or foraging, and even the occasional leadership role (usually a former military man or a political figure). What is almost never factored in is the enourmous importance of art in the underlying health of the individual and social human psyche. Artists tell stories, we sing songs and play instruments, we bring colour and light and laughter to dark spaces...but even more importantly, we bring an extremely adept ability to think outside the box.
Akira Kurosawa said "Being an artist means never averting your eyes." I don't strictly agree with that statement, but I really get what he was saying. There's an inherent curiosity that artists are born with that causes us to examine that which others find unthinkable or repugnant. Because we don't avert our eyes; because we are deeply and undeniably curious, every artist I know of is capable of looking at almost any object or situation or problem and coming up with a dozen different ways to see and/or solve the situation. Artists are essential to the survival not just of our society, but of our core physical selves!
And why are YOU an artist, rather than anything else?
You mean I have a choice? Believe me, I have tried to be something else, but I end up miserable, angry, and suicidal. My name may change, and has, but I am an artist no matter what. It's as simple as that.